Tuesday, October 3, 2023

No End To Austerity With Even More Cuts By County Council

The county council is set to make nearly £19 million in cuts this year due to “immense pressure” to support a rapidly growing number of vulnerable children and adults.

But the Conservatives, who control the authority, are now set to agree to postpone millions more pounds in cuts until after the next county election.

The budget for 2020 into 2021 will total £560.2 million.

The council had forecast all year to make cuts of £33.4 million during the 2020 to 2021 financial year, beginning in April – the final complete financial year before the county election – but this has now been stripped back to £19 million.

Any further cuts have been pushed back to the financial years 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024.

During those financial years, the council had been aiming to make cutbacks totalling nearly a million pounds, but that has increased to more than £17 million.

Here are some of the key budget cuts proposed:

  • £258,000 in staffing (job losses)
  • £88,000 to cut the b_line discount card for 20,000 young people to have cheaper fares on buses and trains (young people will now pay full price)
  • £450,000 from public transport by reducing the amount the council pays in bus route subsidies. Lesser-used routes will be assessed to make sure they are viable (source routes to cancel)
  • £230,000 from waste services by restricting the use of household waste recycling centres by businesses and people living outside Derbyshire
  • £2.08 million in administration and employee savings by not replacing people when they leave and by “restructuring services”. This includes staff in finance, ICT, communications, human resources, trading standards and community safety (job losses hidden in “restructuring”)
  • £1.9 million by disposing of some of the council’s land and buildings – either selling them or developing them
  • £320,000 from libraries. The multi-year programme to transfer 20 libraries to voluntary groups, together with regularly reviewing staffing levels and opening hours, will continue, as well as the review of the mobile library service
  • £70,000 by handing Buxton Museum over to volunteers – in line with the council’s approach to libraries. It is the council’s only museum

The council has also been given several more stern warnings from Peter Handford, its head of finance.

He says: “There is immense pressure on all demand-led services, in particular those around services to children.”
Mr Handford says the authority must make budget cuts of £65 million by the end of the 2024 financial year – of which £52 million has been earmarked.

He says a failure to meet budget cut targets could “lead to issues around financial sustainability that would require urgent, radical savings rather than the planned process that minimises the impacts of reductions as far as possible”.

This comes after the Local Government Association said in its peer review of the authority in October 2018 that: “Unachievable saving targets are rolled forward into the next financial year for delivery.”

Before the budget for the current year was approved, Mr Handford had said: ““We have heard mention about the end of austerity. I would say that the end of austerity is just starting rather than just finishing.
“We still have two to three years of significant funding reductions.”

Mr Handford says a month’s delay in identifying where to make cuts from would cost £1 million.

He says in a worst case scenario, the authority’s reserves, its money used for emergencies such as the Toddbrook Reservoir crisis, will drop to just £12.8 million by 2024.

The 2020 budget says that job losses within the council could be “significant” due to the amount of savings it has to make. These will amount to a quarter of a million pounds.

The new cuts were authorised by the authority’s cabinet and full council on Thursday, 23rd January.

There are a vast range of pressures on the council’s finances this year – totalling nearly £32 million.
This includes many millions of pounds on children’s services and adult social care – largely including support for the vulnerable elderly with dementia and kids with special educational needs.
Here are some of the key spending proposals for the next year:

  • £4 million extending Glossopdale School
  • £2 million refurbishing Newhall Junior School
  • £6 million to support the building of schools linked to new housing developments
  • £30 million to build a new care home on Bennerley Avenue, Cotmanhay, to replace the nearby Hazelwood Care Home
  • £195,000 for flood alleviation schemes in Bonsall Village, 190 homes in the Lightwood Road area of Buxton, 50 homes in Eyam and Stoney Middleton, and 19 homes in Castle Gresley
  • £4 million to carry out the council’s work to become carbon neutral and combat climate change

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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