Warning of savage council cuts coming

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.
County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.

A wave of savage cuts is set to be imposed across North Yorkshire as the county council warns its spending will have been slashed by a third.

The true scale of the financial crisis facing North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) emerged this week after senior finance officers admitted the situation is even worse than predicted just six months ago. The cash-starved authority is faced with having to enforce cuts totalling nearly £160m by 2018/19.

The latest round of measures to make annual savings of £5.9m are due to be discussed by senior councillors next Tuesday, although the full extent of the cuts to plug the overall £160m financial blackhole has yet to be finalised.

Moves to be discussed next week include the withdrawal of social care support for more than 1,000 people and slashing bus subsidies by a quarter.

But the situation for the following four years is even worse than first forecast, with the council now anticipating it will have to reduce spending by £66m - up from an initial forecast of £57.5m.

The revelations come after Chancellor George Osborne’s spending review revealed that £1bn is to be cut from regional budgets by 2016.

Council leader, Coun John Weighell, said the scale of cuts would mean that key front-line services would now be gravely affected.

“There needed to be a rebalancing, but this rebalancing has now gone too far,” he said. “The threat to services that people value the most is very, very real, and there will be some very tough decisions to take.

“But we are faced with an extraordinarily difficult situation to ensure that we can provide a balanced budget in the future.”

Among the proposals to be considered by the council’s executive on Tuesday is a radical overhaul of social care. The council is among a handful which provides social care to people with “moderate” needs but the plans would see the council join the majority of authorities in offering services to people with “substantial” needs or higher.

Other plans include means-testing all community-based social services to generate an extra £740,000-a-year. Charges are also proposed to counter the £240,000 cost of disposing soil and rubble at household waste recycling centres.

One of the most controversial plans is slashing the £4.4m which the council spends on bus subsidies by £1.1m. It is hoped the cuts will be achieved by reducing the frequency of services, but the prospect of cutting routes has not been discounted. The cost of post-16 transport to schools and colleges is also planned to be cut by £400,000-a-year.