THURROCK Council’s recent experience of making unprecedented cuts will equip it for the even tougher choices to be made in coming months, according to the borough’s leader, Cllr John Kent.
Cllr Kent said that having made £50m in savings since 2010, the council would apply the lessons learnt in those years as it consulted with the community in coming months.
He noted that the government grant had fallen by £25m since 2010, with a similar cut already announced for the next few years.
At last night’s meeting of the council’s cabinet Cllr Kent said: “I’m afraid I have been warning colleagues, staff and the public for some months that despite the scale of savings we have already delivered, we face even tougher times ahead. To put it starkly, cuts in government support over the next few years represent around 20% of our net budget.”
“I said in February that even tougher choices lie ahead.
“The time has come to make those choices so we can consult with local people – particularly those who depend on our frontline services – and respond as best we can to their feedback.”
He warned the public, however, that people must accept that the very relationship between many residents and their council will have to change fundamentally.
Although the cabinet last night brought forward to this year millions of pounds of efficiency savings – offering protection to some frontline services – these fell well short of the savings target.
“There is a limit to the efficiencies we can find after such huge cuts in previous years. We are now forced to look at how we provide services and whether they could be better-provided by others. Sadly, we also have to look at whether we can even afford to provide particular services. That is what we need to consult with our community about.”
Amongst the savings for 2015/16 proposed for consultation last night were:
Revisions to waste collection and disposal arrangements
Reduction in voluntary sector grant
Review how we clean the streets
Savings in third sector contracts for work with people with learning disabilities or mental health problems unless they cover statutory services
Reduce bus subsidies
Increased revenue from car parking charges.
He concluded: “None of us came into politics to cut services and jobs – indeed we are focussing much effort on a growth agenda that will create local jobs for local people. However we face tough choices and we have no alternative but to make those decisions.
“I can assure the people of Thurrock that in making those choices I and my cabinet colleagues will do all in our power to protect frontline services and vulnerable residents.”
A paper to last night’s cabinet meeting explained that despite significant unexpected financial pressures last year, the council kept within budget.