In the most recent Budget consultation (published 12 December 2016) , it states that £28m cuts are required over the next 3 years from 2017/18.
For the sake of clarity – there are no cuts to the overall funding of the Council in this period. The height of the bars in the chart above are fairly constant. The headline £28m cuts for the next 3 years, assumes that there is inflation of £2.5m per year and that there are upward pressures to the Council budget which cannot be contained. If the Director of Finance has been over-pessimistic in his planning then this will reflect in an apparent increase in the “cuts”. For example, a “cut” might be achieved by not accepting a price increase from a supplier. In 2019/20 the level of savings/cuts required is less than the planned inflation – this is well within the tolerance of planning error – less than 1% of budget.
By way of comparison in 2010, before the start of austerity, and during the Labour Government, the Council needed “cuts” of £39m over the subsequent 3 years – none of this was to do with “austerity” as we know it, perhaps more to do with loose planning methodologies.
The budget consultation does not quantify in any meaningful terms the growth in the demand over this period in a currency which would allow an independent analysis to take place. It is an act of faith as to how the flat funding has impacted on genuine front-line services, versus driving the Council to be more efficient in its operation versus the Labour Group making “politically charged choices”. When the Leader is happy to sanction £60k on a Communications Consultant, and to consider £90k on Political Assistants it is evident that, even he, has not fully taken on-board his own external rhetoric….and that choices do in fact exist!
To say that £28m cuts are required over the next 3 years, or that £135m was saved in the last 6 years is a gross over-simplification of the facts to the point of being deceptive. Clearly the funding from the Government has not reduced by £135m since 2010…..as it has been constant. The Council are treating the public as fools, and manipulating them for political gain.