Council cuts: There will be redundancies……..

THIS WAS the stark admission by top council bosses at the meeting of the ruling Labour cabinet on Wednesday night (Jan 17th).

The cabinet papers detailed the £12 million pounds worth of savings to be made this year (2013-14) and a further £9 million in 2014-15.

One of the first things to go may be Thurrock’s PCSO’s.

Thurrock match funds around £250,000 for them but portfolio holder, cllr Angie Gaywood indicated why this may not continue.

Thurrock is currently the only authority in Essex that pays for PCSOs.

Cllr Gaywood said: “I have had a meeting with the police and crime commissioner (Nick Alston) and he has indicated that the police precept part of the council tax may increase.”

There was also a stark warning for the Thameside Theatre as the council look to make savings close to £250,000.

Council leader, John Kent stressed that when you drill down to some of the savings that many were eliminating use of agency staff.

Cllr Kent pointed to the £50,000 saving from the fraud team as an example.

Cllr Kent said:

“This evening is an important stage in setting the council’s budget as we agree, for consultation purposes, savings proposals that – if accepted – will enable us to set a balanced budget at the end of next month.

February’s decision will be a unique one here in Thurrock as I will be recommending that we don’t agree one year’s budget, but two years.

The papers we have before us show that government will be giving Thurrock £12 million less with which to provide services by 2014-15.

I am confident that the government won’t change its proposals for 2014-15 and equally confident that our careful budgeting and strategy can deal with the challenge too.

That means there’s no reason why we can’t be a forward-thinking, sensible authority … acting cross-party like grown-ups and actually planning for the future. If the council can manage to do this on February 27, then we can immediately start thinking about how we deal with what we know will be the even bigger cuts to come in April 2015.

Over the course of the past 10 months or so, councillors and officers have spent a great deal of time putting together a series of proposals for reducing our spending and that effort is visible for all to see tonight.

As tonight’s supplemental report make clear, things have not been made any easier by the government’s delays in making announcements and following up those delayed announcements with a drip-drip feed of the detail.

I’m not going to harp on about it, but I want to acknowledge just how hard people have worked since Christmas to identifying possible savings to make up the extra £6million cut outlined in appendix two and I want to thank them, personally.

It is important to remember these proposals are still not, at this stage, cast in stone. They will now be examined, in detail, by our overview and scrutiny committees – starting on Monday – but there are some important points to note.

Whilst there is a £100,000 reduction in the libraries budget – that does not mean we’re looking to close any library, unlike some other authorities, in fact we’re investing in one at Belhus to help ensure it’s future, but that there will be some efficiencies that will have to be made.

We’ve looked at the Thameside, too – and here we think we can reduce our subsidy. Personally I think it is an important role of public authorities like councils and government to support the arts, but it is also important that the arts sector plays its part in saving money. That’s what’s happening here.

As far as the environment is concerned, we’re not looking at moving to fortnightly waste collections and not looking at savings in street cleaning.

You will see a reduction in project work with young people Not in Education, Employment or Training. The, so called, NEETs. The number of NEETs in Thurrock practically doubled last year and I am not prepared to stand by and do nothing to help. We will, therefore, bring forward proposals for a new scheme aimed at helping Thurrock’s young unemployed, working with partners and if necessary funded from reserves.

You’ll see a cut in the school improvement budget – but that remains an absolute imperative for us and, again, we will find other ways of supporting schools to reach our aim of become good and outstanding.

Finally, as I have said, these are not yet cast in stone and the proposal (at the top of the second page) “Removal of the open access locality youth offer” (£144k) is a proposal I cannot support so will move it is removed this evening.

But former leader and portfolio holder for regeneration, cllr Andy Smith put it in the starkest of terms.

He said: “We have to be honest and say that there will be redundancies over the next few months.”

At this juncture, shadow Conservative leader, cllr Phil Anderson was invited to speak.

Cllr Anderson pledged that the opposition group would be putting forward their own set of proposals that would be going through a number of organisations.

Cllr Kent welcomed that but appealed to his opposite number.

Cllr Kent said: “In the last two years, we have agreed with 95% of the budget, however, we have seen us squabbling over the other 5% in the public arena.

“I would hope that we could discuss what we disagree upon outwith the arena.”

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