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Council faces up to further funding reductions

Friday, July 10, 2015

Protecting those most in need will remain the top priority as Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council tackles further reductions in the Government funding it receives.

The Council has adopted a carefully planned and managed approach to delivering budget savings of more than £34million in the last five years.

And this will continue as ongoing funding reductions have left the Council having to find further savings of more than £17million over the next three years.

A series of savings proposals – including a review of senior management – will be considered for recommendation to Council by members of the Council’s Cabinet on Thursday (July 16).

Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook, said: “Managing the impact of the cuts in a way that protects those most in need will remain our top priority, especially as we continue to see rising demand for adult social care and children’s services.

“We have a long history of strong financial management and that will stand us in good stead as we continue to tackle these unprecedented financial challenges. But there are going to be tough decisions ahead.

“We have already found £34million in savings and reduced staff numbers by more than 700. Finding new savings gets harder and harder the more we have to make and there are certainly no easy answers.

“We cannot pretend that we can continue to do all the things that we currently do and we won’t be able to work in the same way.

“I will be recommending that Cabinet agrees a series of specific proposals in July aimed at delivering £5.5million in savings over the next three years, including a review of our senior management structure to ensure it reflects our changing shape and size.

“Given the level of savings required, the Council cannot continue to provide all of the services we do at the same level, in the same way and to the same standards so I will also be recommending that we undertake detailed reviews of front line services.

“These will be subjected to further review and scrutiny by our Select Committees and Cabinet before they are implemented and these are aimed at delivering £6.9million of savings.Inevitably, there will be fewer universal front line services and greater focus on making sure the money we have can make the biggest difference to the people that need it the most.

“We are also proposing to make greater use of technology, invest to save opportunities and use of reserves to allow time for the savings to be delivered.”

Councillor Cook added: “Our financial situation has been worsened by the recently announced £1million per year cut to our public health budget, despite our Borough having the biggest gap in male life expectancy in the country.

“In addition, the Government’s damaging changes to the business rates system have handed councils liability for appeals which are settled by the National Valuation Office and which will cost us far more than the rewards that were supposed to be available for local areas which achieved economic growth.

“So, while we should be seeing increased income as a result of our significant growth, we are instead looking at a £4.8million increase in our 2016/17 budget gap as a result of having to set aside funds to cover appeals. The system is broken.”

The Council is also launching a new campaign – The Big Picture – to help local people understand how the Council budget is spent.

The campaign will highlight the competing demands on Council resources and help to put spending decisions into context.

The Council’s Chief Executive, Neil Schneider, said: “This is understandably a concerning time for all Council staff who work extremely hard to provide a good service.

“I would like to thank them all for continuing to do their very best for our Borough despite the inevitable and growing workload pressures they continue to face.”

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