Government cuts mean Carlisle City Council faces 'uphill struggle' to balance books
The leader of Carlisle City Council says the authority is striving to continue delivering local services for residents - despite facing an "uphill struggle" due to central Government funding cuts.
Colin Glover made the statement as the Labour-led authority laid out its budget plans for the coming financial year at a meeting this week.
The series of proposals help with the council's need to make almost £3.5m worth of savings between 2016/2017 and 2018/19. Around £7m has already been cut from its spending in previous years.
Councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of implementing the budget plans with 28 votes for, one against and 20 abstentions.
Residents within the city's limits will be hit by a council tax increase with owners of band D properties seeing their bill rise by £5 per year. For a band A household the hike will be £3.33.
Mr Glover said: "Continued under-funding by central Government means that councils face an uphill struggle to deliver the important services that people need and deserve.
"Nevertheless, we are determined to focus on our health and wellbeing and economic growth strategies and invest in the future of Carlisle and the people who live and work here.
"Pressures on health and social care mean it has never been more important to play our part in delivering prevention services and our ambition of Carlisle as a healthy city.
"We are continuing to work with our partners to attract investment into Carlisle to help the city to continue growing in confidence. This budget aims to deliver on those ambitions and ensure everyone is able to share in our vision for a successful city."
Mr Glover added that with those financial pressures, few authorities were able to maintain a council tax freeze.
Les Tickner, portfolio holder for finance, said: “We are still having to cope with reducing budgets and will soon be reliant on business rates retention, New Homes Bonus and income generation from our assets and services.
"Between 2010 and 2016 we have had to find savings of £7m. Between 2016 and 2019 we need to find additional savings of £3.475m - a total of more than £10m.
"This is revenue, so it affects our ability to deliver services. This represents around a 40 per cent cut in our revenue budget.”
Deputy leader of the Conservative group Gareth Ellis spoke in response to Labour's budget proposal.
He said that reductions in funding from the Government weren't the only reason that councils were facing tough financial times.
"We have difficult decisions to make in this chamber but don't let's pretend some of those aren't in the council's control," he said.
Included in the proposals is investment in the Homelife services – which include grants to support independent living – and increasing the budget for Clean Up Carlisle, an initiative which helps to keep the city's streets clean.
Fees for internment and cremation of people aged 17 and under at the city's cemeteries were also removed as part of this year's budget.
Originally plans had been put forward to remove an allotment discount for residents aged over 60. However this, along with proposals to increase parking charges at Talkin Tarn, near Brampton, were scrapped from the first draft following public consultations.
Mr Glover added: "Through the consultation, people and organisations responded, making well-reasoned and informed responses, setting out their thoughts and concerns and we listened and responded positively.
"As a result suggested changes to allotment discounts and annual parking permits at Talkin Tarn were dropped and the contribution of those services to health and wellbeing recognised.
"That is what genuine consultation is all about – listening, taking notice and acting."