Tories impose yet more cuts to council budget

The council has this week commenced consultation on some proposed changes to services as Rotherham faces tens of millions of pounds worth of further cuts imposed by the Conservative government. Rotherham remains amongst the worst hit parts of the country by austerity.

In an open letter copied below, council leader Chris Read sets out how Labour councillors are responding:

This week we publish details of how the council plans to meet budget cuts imposed by the Tories in Westminster for the coming year. Already more than 1,800 jobs have been lost at the council, and within two years the total cuts to our budget will have reached the £200 million mark.

Councils of all political colours right across the country are reaching a tipping point. Last year, three quarters of all councils overspent on their Children’s Services budgets. Most are overspending on Adult Social Care too. For a council like Rotherham, where two thirds of our budget is spent on Adult and Children’s social care, and only half of our budget is covered by council tax, the consequences are especially severe.

In 2020, the government will scrap the main grant that Rotherham receives altogether. The independent Local Government Association estimates that by then councils will face a jaw-dropping funding shortfall of nearly £6 billion.

Locally, we will continue to invest in the jobs and homes that Rotherham people need, because it’s the right thing to do, and because it helps to reduce costs and supports the council’s income – it’s one of the reasons I continue to argue the case for devolution now, not at some distant point in the future. We’re looking again at our customer services and online services, to ensure they become more efficient and easier to use. We’ve committed small budgets to our neighbourhoods, to meet local demands without needing major projects. We continue to need to reduce the number of buildings that the council owns and runs, because we can’t afford to prioritise buildings over the services that people need.

And yes, we’ve already cut councillors’ allowances again this year, matching the reduction in salaries that our staff agreed to help contribute to the budget. We’ll continue to invest in services for the most vulnerable children and families, not make the mistakes of the past. And whilst I’m writing, we’re not paying for that bridge either.

You will find our budget proposals in more detail on the council’s website and can submit your comments before we set the final proposals in March. This has been the most difficult budget most of us have ever known. We are well beyond the easy answers. But we will continue to focus on making the right decisions for the long term.

The formal consultation on Rotherham Council’s 2018/19 budget can be accessed online here.

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