Cabinet approves budget proposals to tackle £262m savings

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lancashire County Council's Cabinet today approved plans to save £65m over the next two years, as part of action to tackle a £262m funding gap faced by April 2020.



The plans will result in the loss of the equivalent of an estimated 367 full-time jobs, in addition to the 1100 staff who have already left the authority since January 2014 on voluntary redundancy.

At the same time the council will be continuing work on delivering the remaining savings identified last year, adding up to a further saving of almost £148m over the period 2015/16 to 2017/18 and a further reduction of more than 500 full-time equivalent posts.

The decisions follow the announcement in August that the council needs to save an additional £262m by April 2020, to tackle a funding gap caused by reduced government funding and rising demand for services.

The savings come on top of £152m savings announced in the three-year budget agreed in February this year. The additional savings mean that between 2011 and 2020 the council will have to have delivered savings of £685m.

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "The decisions we have taken today are heartbreaking but reflect the unprecedented financial situation we face. I didn't come into politics to cut services but years of relentless central government cuts combined with a rising demand for our services mean we have to find huge savings.

"Even with these measures we still face a funding gap of nearly £200m by 2020 so unless central government has a change of heart there will be harder decisions to take in future. We are using the bulk of our reserves just to balance the budget over the next two years. We will do all that we can to protect the vulnerable but these are very difficult times."

Deputy leader David Borrow, cabinet member with responsibility for finance and property issues, said: "It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of our financial situation. The plans approved today are striking but they represent less than a quarter of the savings we have to find by 2020. We have to spend our reserves, built up over years to cover unexpected events, just to balance the budget. And we know that we will still face a shortfall of £56m in 2018/19.

"We will have to look at the detail of the Chancellor's announcement yesterday that we can raise Council Tax by 2% to go towards adult social care. This may go some way to alleviate pressures in that area but won't solve what has been chronic underfunding for these vital services."

Proposals approved today include:

Removing funding for all subsidised bus services, to save £7.5m per year
Reducing the county council's library network from 74 libraries to 34, to save c£7m
Ending the funding of five museums: Queen Street Mill, Helmshore, Museum of Lancashire, Judges' Lodgings, Fleetwood Museum
Removing the subsidy for discretionary denominational transport
Reducing the Highways budget by £2.8m

At the same meeting, Cabinet approved plans to achieve a long-term reduction in the County Council's corporate property portfolio. Under this strategy, public services would be delivered from a network of multi-functional Neighbourhood Centres, determined on the basis of the needs of local communities.

County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council with responsibility for finance and property issues, said: "The proposal to establish neighbourhood centres and reduce the number of buildings we operate is a key tool in helping to cope with the huge financial challenges we face as a result of relentless central government cuts and increasing demand for our services.

"By analysing the needs of local communities we can target our resources where they are needed most. The strategy is about using a smaller number of buildings more effectively as we strive to ensure that we continue to deliver services to our communities. This is the start of a process that will include consultation with local people and partners."

The proposals are published in the agenda for Cabinet.

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