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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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County and borough councils both warn of squeeze

FURTHER cuts are on the cards in Copeland, residents are being warned.

Copeland Council has received its provisional budget settlement from the government for the next two years. And while next year’s cut (12 per cent) was anticipated, the further 15 per cent in 2015/16 means even further savings must be found.

Copeland has already been forced to save £3 million by 2015 – and cuts have included the closure of Whitehaven Civic Hall, tourist information centre and public toilets, and the reduction in grass-cutting, doorstep recycling, and, from 2015, the cancellation of Christmas lights.

Coun Gillian Troughton, the council’s portfolio holder for finance and HR, said: “The government claimed their budget settlement was fair for all local authorities, but the uneven distribution of the cuts shows this is clearly not the case.

“The deep and continued cuts to funding mean that continuing to provide even the services we have to provide will be a challenge.

“As many other councils have said, the budget cuts seem a deliberate attack on the role of local government, with the sole aim of reducing its size by making councils unsustainable. The government has acknowledged that local government is the most efficient public service yet is making these cuts. It must get its own house in order.

“Despite this, we will be working hard to keep delivering the services we must to all our customers, and continuing to work with partners to deliver the best for the people of Copeland.

“Whilst our role has changed due to the cuts, our commitment to supporting our residents has not. This is why we have not passed on the government’s cut to funding for council tax support to vulnerable customers, and why we have supported the important work of organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau and foodbanks.”

At Cumbria County Council, the settlement has revealed that for 2015/16, it will have to make nearly £3million more savings than originally anticipated.

The council now expects it will have to take almost £34million from its budget, rather than the £31million that officials had planned for.

County bosses have already conceded that 600 jobs are at risk, but the latest figures suggest that even more might have to go.

Jo Stephenson, deputy council leader, said: “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. But if we’re going to lose more money than expected it seems almost inevitable that we will lose more.”

He said that in the coming financial year, the council would have to cope with more than a £20million reduction in funding when inflation was taken into account.

Coun Stephenson added: “These are the biggest cuts to local government spending since World War Two.”

Cumbria County Council, which will agree its budget on February 13, is already consulting on 35 savings proposals, including the reduction of some bus subsidies and the introduction of on-street parking charges.

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