County council says £303m cuts ahead

Lancashire County Council's deputy leader, County Coun David Borrow
Lancashire County Council's deputy leader, County Coun David Borrow

LANCASHIRE county council’s deputy leader Coun David Borrow is to lobby MPs after the council predicted it faces a £303.3m reduction in Government funding by 2020, with £11m of extra cuts to bite in 2016/17.

Coun Borrow, who met Government Minister Greg Clark this week as part of a County Councils Network delegation said: “The bottom line is the government has introduced a new formula for distributing grants and done it without any consultation.

“We made the point the formula is wrong and needs to be looked at again. Ideally we’re asking them to not implement it. We’ve asked if they are going to implement it can they bring in some transitional arrangements to cushion the blow... and we’ll be contacting our MPs to give them a briefing.”

His comments came just days before his council’s cabinet is set to approve a £64.8m programme of far reaching cuts.

Coun Borrow said:”We thought we’d taken quite a pessimistic approach .... but we are probably £11m worse off than we anticipated being in 2016/17.”

Coun Borrow predicted the income Lancashire will receive from the Government funded Revenue Support Grant and its share of Business Rates would be £46m down in 2016/17, compared to the current financial year and by 2019/20 it would be £117m down. The funding changes form part of the government’s autumn statement and finance settlement for local government.

He predicted any permitted increases in council tax would be absorbed by social care costs: ”More and more of our budget is tied to adults social care and is demand led. So the council has no choice over that part of its budget.”

The council’s hard hitting measures, which the full council will be asked to approve in February , are set to include closing 40 libraries, axeing bus service subsidies and shutting the council’s Countryside Services.

County Council leader Coun. Jenny Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We knew that the financial settlement would be bad news and that was reflected in our forecasts, but the actual figures are even worse than we had feared. The council’s funding situation was already unprecedented in its severity and now it is going to be harder still to maintain the services people rely on.

“We’re currently consulting on budget proposals that highlight the fact the council cannot afford to keep running all of its services in their current form, and indeed that it appears some will have to stop altogether. I’m still keen to hear people’s views and suggestions as to how some of those services might be delivered differently in future but the reality is that even once this year’s budget is agreed the council will still have to find more than another £200m worth of savings.”

Public consultations are continuing on the plans for the library service, the withdrawal of subsidy for local bus services and the closure of Countryside Services. The public can also comment on the budget proposals as a whole and community groups have been invited to express an interest in taking over council buildings or services. Further consultations are due to be launched soon.

More information on how to comment is available at http://www.lancashire.gov.uk