Cuts target services for 'vulnerable'
PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 December 2014
ANOTHER wave of budget cuts could see less childcare funding for infants, road safety spending slashed and charges hiked for community meals as the council tries to scrape back £17million next year.
Despite these cuts, North Somerset Council’s budget deficit remains ‘unprecedented and severe’, as it faces a £6million funding gap for 2015-18.
Home care services may be handed to private companies and children’s services, such as discretionary childcare funding for the under twos, and school crossing patrols could face the chop.
Unison representative Helen Thornton said: “The council is proposing £17million cuts to services for some of our most vulnerable residents.
“They include charging for blue badges for disabled parking, increasing charges for community meals, the reduction of school crossing patrols, and further reduction of the council tax support scheme.”
Under the authority’s current medium-term financial plan, the road maintenance budget will be cut, street cleaning will be reduced and more council jobs transferred to private contractor Agilisys.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats for North Somerset Cllr Mike Bell said: “The Mercury’s excellent campaign to win more funding for North Somerset is driven by the historic lack of funding we’ve received.
“However, budget setting is still about making choices and reductions in road safety, childcare funding for under-twos, yet more cuts to school crossing patrols and cuts to short breaks for carers all look worrying.
“What does it say about the priorities of this council when these cuts are proposed, but nothing is yet done, for example, about the monthly North Somerset Life magazine or on reducing councillors’ allowances?”
North Somerset Council released its draft savings proposals at its last executive meeting, in a report which stated: “The scale of projected budget deficit facing the council over the next four years is unprecedented and severe, with the inevitable consequence that making the required level of savings involves a high degree of risk.”
The council faces a number of challenges in the future as the Government has confirmed a reduction in education grants of 20 per cent by 2015/16.
Other Government grants available for free school transport, adoption reform and special educational needs may not continue next year.
The local authority has been left trying to find £100million in savings from 2011 to 2018, and next year there will be £16.7million worth of cuts on the way if the authority’s budget is approved.
Leader of the Labour Party for North Somerset Richard Tucker said: “Year on year our local services in Weston and North Somerset are being hit as a direct consequence of the Tory-Lib-Dem Government’s grant funding reductions to local councils.
Ms Thornton added: “A large proportion of the proposed savings will be achieved through the recommissioning of adult social care services for elderly and disabled people, which will also have a knock-on effect on the private and voluntary sector organisations that currently provide those services, as well as putting more pressure on the NHS.”
If the savings programme is agreed at the executive meeting on Tuesday it will be finalised this month and implemented by the end of year.