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‘Challenging’ times ahead as Hartlepool Council faces more huge budget cuts

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HARTLEPOOL Borough Council is facing huge budget cuts of around £14m over the next two financial years due to reduced Government funding.

The funding gap facing the local authority was laid bare at a meeting of the council’s finance and policy committee.

While exact details on where the axe will fall are still being worked on, finance chiefs at the authority know they will need to bridge a funding deficit of £5.626m in 2015-16 and £8.663m in 2016-17.

A finance report said the council’s senior corporate management team has identified initial options for achieving savings worth £5.536m for the next financial year but details are yet to be announced.

Councillors have been warned they are faced with making even tougher decisions than in previous years given the level of savings they need to achieve.

Chris Little, council’s chief finance officer, said: “The savings options have been identified against a background of delivering significant cuts over the last four years, which makes the achievement of further savings to balance the 2015-16 budget extremely challenging.

“It therefore needs to be recognised that the initial savings options will require members to make even more difficult decision than in previous years.

“It will be essential that members make these decisions as early as possible to ensure detailed savings can be implemented before the start of the new financial year.”

It is proposed 2015-16 budget decisions will be made before Christmas, with decisions around council tax being made early next year before full council agrees the budget.

Mr Little said whatever happens in next years General Election, he believed there would still be cuts to public spending in future years.

The latest budget forecasts follow on from severe budget cuts in recent years and in February this year, councillors unanimously agreed savage budget cuts of more than £4m resulting in the loss of 60 council jobs. It did though include a council tax freeze for hard-up residents for the fourth successive year.

A council report to the meeting added: “The continuation of significant grant cuts means that in 2015/16 the council’s grant will £30.578m lower than it was in 2010-11, which is a cumulative cut of 39 per cent.”

 

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