Lancaster service cuts ‘inevitable’ says finance boss

Coun Richard Newman-Thompson.
Coun Richard Newman-Thompson.
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A head of finance at Lancaster City Council says service cuts are “inevitable” after the Government announced plans to slash local authority funding.

Coun Richard Newman-Thompson said £5m worth of extra savings need to be found over the next four years.

This comes after Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, revealed details of a four-year funding package to councils in Parliament.

Mr Clark hailed it as “a historic settlement for town halls” providing long-term financial certainty for councils while prioritising adult social care for the nation’s ageing population.

But Coun Newman-Thompson, Labour cabinet member for finance, said: “These vicious Tory Government cuts will inevitably mean we will be unable to continue to provide all the services and do all the things our residents would like us to do.

“They are unnecessary, and the Tories have used the global financial and Eurozone crises as a cover for their ideologically driven attacks on the public sector.

“We had already had a 44% cut in our budget in real terms since 2010 under the Tory-led Government, and have had to find savings of more than £7m.

“We are proud of our record in protecting frontline services, but there are only so many efficiency savings you can make, and cuts on this scale are unsustainable.”

Mr Clark said: “More savings need to be made as we finish the job of eliminating the remaining deficit. So I’ve listened carefully to councils as we prepared this settlement.

“They asked for the right to spend locally what they raise locally, help with adult social care, expenditure savings which recognise what has already been achieved, recognition of the higher costs of providing services to sparsely populated rural areas, encouragement for cost-saving innovation, rewards for new homes, complete transparency with regard to resource allocation and a move beyond one-year-at-a-time budgeting.

“This provisional settlement meets all these objectives.”

Rob Whiteman, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said some local authorities would benefit from the settlement but district councils, like Lancaster, would struggle.

“Top-tier local authorities are set to benefit as high-demand critical services, such as social care, receive welcome direct support.

“However, it is likely that district councils will find a greater squeeze on their budgets as the New Homes Bonus is reduced by around £800m between now and 2019/20.”