September 28th, 2016

Worcestershire County Council must save another £100m in next four years

Worcestershire County Council must save another £100m in next four years Worcestershire County Council must save another £100m in next four years
Updated: 12:03 am, Nov 20, 2015

COUNTY Council chiefs have revealed a further £100million needs to be saved over the next four years but insist Worcestershire County Council remains a viable authority.

Council leader Coun Adrian Hardman revealed the council needed to address an expected funding gap of around £3.4million in the next financial year.

A reduction in Government grants has led to the increase in the level of cuts needed and in addition to the £25million in savings, the authority has ear-marked a further £12.6million of cuts over the next four years.

Council chiefs expect to make further savings as part of the FutureFit 2020 corporate plan which covers a variety of areas designed to contribute to a prosperous future for the county.

Among the areas covered include a greater focus on contracting out services to other providers both in the private sector but also voluntary and community groups.

An increased focus on social care will be among the package of measures as well as the possible sale of council owned assets and buildings.

Both Coun Hardman and Chief Executive Clare Marchant insisted there was a future for local Government and called for further devolution from Whitehall.

Currently, 74 per cent of the council’s income is derived from business rates and council tax and county council chiefs hope to push that figure up to 90 per cent should Chancellor George Osborne push ahead with plans to hand business rates back to local authorities.

“If they are going to repatriate business rates to local councils that should give local authorities the resources to cope without Government grants,” he said.

Coun Hardman said he expected Government grant funding to go completely by 2020 in return for the county keeping all its business rates on top of council tax, becoming entirely self-sufficient.

“I think the next four years will be the heaviest lift we have ever done,” he said.

“Worcestershire people make better decisions than the man in Whitehall about their money, I truly believe that.

“We seem to have got into a weird situation where we send a lot of money off to Whitehall who then decide how we spend it,” he added.

The proposals were debated at a meeting of the council on Thursday (November 12) where the respective party leaders clashed on how cuts should be made.

Labour leader Coun Peter McDonald said the council was ‘failing’ and added: “This is about outsourcing as much as you can as quickly as possible.

“They’re saying ‘don’t worry about making people redundant, just look at the outcomes’,” he added.

Fellow Labour councillor Joe Baker said: “Who’s going to want to come to an organisation which is making hundreds of people redundant?

“This report looks like it’s been written by Simon Cowell with all of this talk of ‘talent management’, it’s almost like ‘Worcestershire’s Got Talent’,” he added.

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