Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Harshest cuts City Council has ever faced | Leicester Mercury column

Column for the Leicester Mercury following the Comprehensive Spending Review.

When George Osborne delivered his Comprehensive Spending Review statement a week ago we knew it would be bad news. With this Government, it usually is. Like councils across the country, Leicester City Council is now faced with a further round of painful budget cuts.

Back in 2010, the coalition made clear their intention to make significant cuts to council budgets. What has happened since is unprecedented. Local government has taken more than its fair share of cuts. This ideological attack on councils and the services is now coupled with the cost of the Government's economic failure.

The Government is now making further cuts to council budgets, and other public services, because they have failed to get the economy back on track and are having to borrow more. Because of George Osborne's economic failure, local councils will pay the price, with millions slashed from our budgets in 2015-16. Leicester City Council has already planned to deliver spending reductions in our annual budget of £85 million since 2011-12.

This has meant very difficult decisions and changes to services. Last week's spending review, with a further 10 per cent cut in our budgets, means a further £60 million reduction in the council's annual spending by 2017-18.

In the next few weeks, we will be setting out our initial plans for council spending in the coming years and how we intend to respond to this further round of cuts. These plans will be discussed with council staff, trade unions, our partner organisations and city residents. The pace and scale of these cuts is unprecedented. We are faced with questions we have not had to ask before. We will need to consider new and different ways of delivering some services.

These cuts are unfair. Councils in more affluent parts of the country are not being asked to make cuts as harsh as those we face in Leicester and in similar areas. Combined with the impact of the benefit changes and the rising costs of living, there are some very significant challenges ahead for the council and wider public sector.

We are determined to retain a good range of locally-delivered services, responding to the needs and expectations of residents. This will not be easy. These are the harshest cuts the council has ever faced. Unfortunately, the Chancellor's balance sheet does not account for how much local residents value and trust local services.

This column first appeared in the Leicester Mercury, 4 July 2013.