News : Frontline Services No Longer Protected from Budget Cuts
Reading, UK, Sep 24, 2014 -- Councillors facing a gap in Government funding of £25 million over the next three years can no longer protect frontline services.
More than 620 posts have been slashed in the last four years and 90 more are expected to go in the coming financial year - the equivalent of 60 full time jobs.
Reading Borough Council managing director Ian Wardle told the policy committee on Monday the council was facing £8.6 million worth of pressures in its budget as a result of Government cuts and increase in demands on services.
Refuse collection, growth in the under-18s population and adult social care presented some of the toughest challenges.
Mr Wardle said the council would not receive the exact figures for the Local Government Finance Settlement until December but was working on the basis that it would reduce to just under £24 million - a cut of £9.2 million.
The council's gross budget is £413 million and more than half of that - including the £87 million dedicated school grant - is ringfenced and cannot be subjected to cuts.
That leaves about £200 million worth of spending on services where the councillors have the choice to spend or cut but that also includes statutory services the council must provide by law.
Adult social care lead councillor Rachel Eden faces some of the toughest decisions as she oversees major changes in adult social care.
She described the "really serious decisions that have to be made" and "the failure of national Government in funding the changes".
Green councillor Rob white was alone "in opposing the cuts agenda which was having a real impact on people's lives".
He said the fact people were living in poverty and using food banks was "a ticking timebomb".
Cllr White added: "We will be opposing these cuts and continuing to stand up for services on which people depend."
Education lead councillor John Ennis said the budget was not all bad news and there would be some "refocussing" of resources as well as requiring schools to pick up some costs themselves.
Cllr Jan Gavin challenged Cllr White saying it would require a "30 per cent plus" increase in council tax to meet the funding gap.
She accused him of "just saying oppose, oppose, oppose" and added: "We live in the real world and we have to make the best possible deal for the people of Reading."
Cllr Jeanette Skeats said the shadow chancellor Ed Balls had been talking about benefit cuts that day and added: "We are all singing from the same song-sheet."
Leader of the council, Cllr Jo Lovelock said it was urban authorities like Reading "being squeezed the most".
She went on: "It's quite disgusting that Reading has had to take such a hit in its Government grant when compared to our quite affluent neighbours like Wokingham."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Reading Borough Council:
Reading Borough Council is the local authority of Reading in Berkshire, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. Its Leader is Cllr Joanne Lovelock.
Published: Friday, September 26, 2014