COUNCILLORS have unanimously agreed savage budget cuts of more than £4m which will result in the loss of 60 council jobs.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s budget for 2014-15 – which includes a council tax freeze for hard-up residents for the fourth successive year – was last night agreed by the full council.
In the main, the impact on front-line services has been minimised but senior councillors have once again warned the situation the year after will be far worse.
Departmental budget cuts total £4.376m with £457,000 from the chief executive’s department, child and adult services saving £1,954,000, regeneration and neighbourhoods savings totalling £1,862,000 and public health £103,000.
Members unanimously backed the plans, which will see 27 compulsory redundancies and 33 voluntary redundancies.
A further 20 posts have also been cut but they were already vacant and the total amount saved on pay is £1.9m.
Services affected from April will include lunchtime school crossing patrols axed to save £25,000, reducing the funds available to community groups by £220,000 and savings in adult social care worth £1.325m.
Council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher said the budget had been put together after consultation with councillors, various committees and the public.
He attacked the Government for its “disproportionate cuts”, which will see Hartlepool’s 2014-15 grant cut by £5.9m and £8.2m for 2015-16, which means by 2016 the total grant will be £30.6m less compared to what it was back in 2011.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “This is a robust budget and strategy for the next financial year.
“But the 2015-16 budget will be the most difficult this council, and others across the North-East, will have ever faced.”
Afterwards, he added: “It is pleasing in the first year of the new governance arrangements that everybody has participated and unanimously supported the budget.”
The Conservative group leader, Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, said: “The Conservatives fully support this budget, especially the council tax freeze which will help the hardworking people of Hartlepool for the next 12-months.”
Labour councillor Carl Richardson added: “We are trying to react to the Government cuts.”
Between now and 2016-17, it is estimated the authority will have to find savings of between £17.1m and £21.6m, on top of the £19.5m saved over the last three years.