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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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More job losses 'inevitable' at Cumbria council after latest Government cash cut

Councils across Cumbria are steeling themselves for more austerity as they plan for what one senior politician says will be the deepest cuts in local government funding since World War Two.

Cumbria County Council photo
Jo Stephenson

Finance experts are still assessing the impact of the Government’s draft grant settlement for next year.

But along with other local authorities throughout the country, the county council and district councils now know that they are facing a 2.9 per cent cut in funding for the next financial year.

Early indications from within Government suggest that Cumbria County Council will also have to find an extra £2.8 million in savings in the year after next – 2015-16. The total savings now needed in that year alone will be nearly £34m, and not £31m as previously expected. The authority is already grappling with how to cut spending by an eye-watering £80m over three years.

Bosses have conceded that scale of funding reduction puts around 600 jobs at risk, and the figures released this week suggest even more jobs might now be threatened.

Jo Stephenson, deputy leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “We have been given indications of funding for 2015-16 and we were anticipating having to make savings of £31m.

“That has now gone up by £2.8m to nearly £34m. As most people know, we were already planning a programme of voluntary redundancies over the next three years, and we will do everything we can to keep that figure as low as possible.

“There won’t be any more redundancies in the next year than we were already planning for but if we’re going to be losing more money than expected it seems almost inevitable that we will lose more.”

This week’s draft settlement shows the authority’s planning for expected funding reductions are broadly in line with what is needed. The council is currently planning for a £24m funding cut next year. Mr Stephenson, also the council’s cabinet member for resources, added: “This settlement confirms the climate that we’ve been working in for the last three years remains a reality for the next three.

“These are the biggest cuts to local government spending since World War Two and confirm that by the end of 2016 we will have one pound less to spend in every four than we used to receive in 2010.”

The council, which will agree its budget on February 13, is consulting on 35 savings proposals, which can be seen on its website at www.cumbria.gov.uk/ourfuture.

Dave Armstrong, a Carlisle-based regional official with the public sector union Unison, said: “If it keeps going like this, local authorities are going to struggle to provide even statutory services.”

Communities minister Brandon Lewis said the settlement was fair to all parts of the country and called for more efforts to tackle waste. He added: “The settlement that we are proposing recognises the responsibility of local government to find sensible savings and make better use of its resources.”

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