A COUNCIL leader admits “nothing is off limits” in the next round of budget cuts facing Hartlepool Borough Council.
Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher was speaking to a 30-strong crowd at a council ‘Face the Public’ event which gave residents the chance to quiz senior councillors.
Hartlepool Council is faced with cutting a further £19.4m from its £100m general fund revenue budget over the next three years, including £5m from the 2014-15 budget.
The budget process for next year is already under way and the council’s various policy committees - children’s services, adults, regeneration and neighbourhoods - will discuss initial proposals for budget cuts in August.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “We have done very well up to now but the cuts are getting deeper and will last longer.
“We are facing real challenges in setting the budget.”
Resident John Maxwell asked the council leader what type of services are going to be cut and also raised concerns about council tax being put up to help pay for services.
Coun Akers-Belcher said the aim was to safeguard services as long as possible but said councillors and officers would be looking at all areas.
He said: “All areas are open to discussion which is why the policy committees will be looking at adult services, children’s, regeneration and neighbourhoods.
“There is a nothing off limits anymore.
“We also have to continue looking at income generation and being innovative.”
The council leader told residents by 2016-17 the local authority will have had its revenue budget cut by 43 per cent, or £25.8m.
He added: “There are some very difficult decisions to be made.
“We have issued the household survey and we will be examining the responses and we are asking people to engage with us.
“There are many opportunities for people to get involved and participate in the decision making process.”
Coun Akers-Belcher told the north and coastal neighbourhood forum Hartlepool Council is looking to use resources of £2.6m, made up of a £680,000 surplus from 2012-13, £900,000 from an uncommitted equal pay provision and £1m from this year’s budget to support risks around business rates, highways maintenance and the council tax support scheme.
The crowd included a dozen councillors and residents.