The painful reality of the city council budget is brought into sharp relief this week.
The painful reality of the city council budget is brought into sharp relief this week as proposals for service cuts and job losses have been published ahead of a decision in February on how to cut another £25 million from what we spend on services.
Around 540 full-time posts are under threat in the next four years. Between 2010 and 2019 the council will have had to cut its budget by £145 million, some 40% of the total.
Until now efficiencies and less visible cuts have meant the effects have not been felt. Those “easy” savings are largely gone.
We have reduced the £8 million overspend we inherited by almost £7 million in the space of six months, but we are a long way behind other councils in being able to cope with the cuts imposed on us by George Osborne.
The 2% “social care precept” announced by Osborne this week sounds like good news. It will however only raise around £2 million, when even with the cuts we are proposing we still have a £2.5 million gap in our social care budget for next year.
And that will mean a 4% council tax increase that you, I and everyone else in the city will have to pay.
Those already facing cuts to their income through benefit reductions, people already looking to food banks for support, people struggling to pay the rent, will find that a very hard increase to pay.
That however is the choice of the Conservative government elected in May; pass responsibility for services and cuts on to local councils and local residents, while trying to achieve a £10 billion budget surplus.
Some argue we should not pass these cuts on, that we should resist and set a budget that does not balance, an illegal one. That kind of gesture politics is not something I will consider.
Should we do that then the government will simply step in and make even deeper cuts, with services provided by the cheapest private provider at a profit to their shareholders, not to the benefit of local residents and the local economy.
Such a “stand” would only do more harm to those we all seek to help. Shouting at the incoming tide won’t help people stay dry.
We’ll build more council homes, more truly affordable homes, we’ll work to get more income for the city from projects that deliver new council tax, more jobs, extra business rates.
We’ll get more high-skilled apprenticeships so young people can start careers that enable them to stay in the city.
We’ll work with neighbourhoods and communities to deliver services in a new way, closer to the people that use them. We’ll do our very best in the face of impossible odds.