Spending cuts to dig deeper to find £22m

John Weighell, leader of North Yorkshire County Council.
John Weighell, leader of North Yorkshire County Council.

Hundreds of jobs are under threat and key frontline services in Harrogate could be affected as the county council faces enforcing extra cuts of nearly £22m.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has revealed this week it is now expected to provide additional cutbacks on top of the £69m in savings it is already having to make.

County Hall, the centre of North Yorkshire County Council.

County Hall, the centre of North Yorkshire County Council.

As many as 400 posts could go in the next two financial years from the authority which has already shed more than 1,000 workers over the past 18 months amid the Government’s austerity drive.

Frontline services including public transport, libraries, the schools music service and outdoor education have already had to be scaled back due to the costcutting drive.

And senior council officers admitted this week that all services will be under review including those for the elderly and the most vulnerable in society which have until now been largely unaffected.

The council’s leader, Coun John Weighell, said: “Our original task of finding £69m in savings posed very considerable challenges.

“If we now have to find almost a third as much again, then clearly the challenge will be even greater.

“This is compounded by the timing of the Government’s announcement, as we expect this will only be confirmed in January next year, just a few months before we need to be making the savings.”

Ministers have asked local authorities across the country to freeze council tax for a further year, in exchange for a grant equivalent to a tax rise of one per cent.

Combined with additional funding cuts from Westminster, North Yorkshire County Council will now have a financial black hole of £21.8m to bridge over the next two years if it accepts the grant – on top of the cutbacks already agreed as part of its original spending plans.

The council has already drawn up plans for saving £8m in the new financial year beginning in next April and it will have to find a further £13.4m if it accepts the Government’s tax freeze grant.

The following year, the amount to be saved will rise from £8m to £16.4m.

The figures are based on preliminary assessments and announcements, which may have to be amended when the formal agreements on funding are made in January.

The Department for Communities and Local Government stressed that new growth incentives will give successful councils a direct boost to their coffers, which could add £10bn to the wider economy.

A spokesman for the department added: “Given councils account for aquarter of all public spending, it is vital they continue to play their part in tackling the inherited budget deficit by making sensible savings through better procurement, greater transparency and sharing back offices.”

The Government confirmed provisional funding settlements will be announced later this year.

Coun Weighell said the council has done all it can to weather this storm.

“Despite the difficulties of the past two years, North Yorkshire County Council has continued to invest in infrastructure and services to try to ensure that the county weathers the economic recession,” he said.

What do you think? Write to the editor at 1 Cardale Park, HG3 1RZ or email news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk.