Council cabinet looks at budget

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COUNCIL chiefs will discuss the latest ways to save money as part of ongoing budget cuts.

Finance chiefs say the ongoing cuts, which include a £9m budget deficit over the next two years, will be “extremely challenging” and fundamentally change the shape of the local authority.

The bleak financial picture could see the council’s £91m budget slashed by almost a quarter due to national budget cuts.

Council chiefs say it is far too early to say how many jobs and services will be affected.

Senior councillors will sit down next week to discuss the way forward as work gets under way on the 2013-14 budget.

The mammoth figures come on the back of £6m cuts made this financial year, which saw dozens of people losing their jobs.

The forecast deficits for the period 2013-14 to 2016-17 are expected to be between £17m and £20m according to a new report, due to be presented to the cabinet committee, chaired by Mayor Stuart Drummond.

Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said: “Clearly, making cuts in the order of £17m to £20m from a budget of £91m will be extremely challenging, fundamentally change the council and need careful management.”

Plans to help balance the 2013-14 budget include using one-off resources, savings from ICT and through proposals to collaborate with Darlington Borough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council.

Officers say collaboration won’t solve budget deficits but would help reduce the impact on front line services.

The council has already seen £10m cut from its main revenue grant over the past two years.

Almost 90 council workers lost their jobs last financial year and the 2012-13 budget cuts saw 42 redundancies as council officers tried to minimise job cuts.

But officers say many of the measures such as stopping some services or scaling them back to a “minimum level” cannot be repeated.

They say it will be vital that planned savings are “robust and sustainable” as the council will have less flexibility to manage the budget.

Mr Little said: “This means that balancing the budget for 2013-14 and future years will become significantly more challenging and require more difficult decisions to be made.

“Savings from 2013-14 onwards will increasingly impact adversely on the overall levels of services provided and the council will need to prioritise services which are protected and services which are either stopped completely, or scaled back to a very minimum level in order to balance the budget.”

Cabinet members will discuss the report and refer it to the scrutiny co-ordinating committee as part of the budget process.

The cabinet committee is due to meet on Monday, June 11, at 9.30am at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.​