Where will the axe fall as Hartlepool council makes £640,000 cuts?

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Drug and alcohol support services and a noise nuisance hotline are among services that could be hit as part of £640,000 of council budget cuts.

Hartlepool Borough Council says it is facing some difficult decisions about where the axe will fall after a cut in its public health grant from central government.

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The council has come up with a range of potential savings to services which are proposed to be cut altogether, scaled back or reviewed.

They include £100,000 for drug and alcohol detox and residential rehabilitation.

Louise Wallace, Hartlepool’s director for public health, said the council will explore if the services can be provided in the community instead.

It is also being proposed to axe the out of hours noise service which runs in the summer.

We don’t want to make cuts but this government has put us in this position

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher

The council’s contribution towards Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Stay Safe Stay Warm programme, which provides heating equipment and advice to elderly and vulnerable residents during the winter is also proposed to be reduced.

Funding for an initiative which helps to stop young people smoking could also be stopped with the work being taken on by schools instead.

Authority leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, who is also chair of the finance and policy committee, said: “We can’t do any more than consider where the axe will fall.

“We don’t want to make cuts but this government has put us in this position.”

Hartlepool council is facing £630,000 less government funding for its public health responsibilities from this year.

This represents a cut of 7.4% of its overall public health grant of around £8million a year.

It is after Chancellor George Osborne announced a £200 million reduction in ring-fenced funding for councils in his June budget.

The council says it has to find £14million of savings over the next three years but it could be more.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “We are concerned about the impact on the population but as a council we will always do everything we possibly can to minimise the impact and try to keep as many of our services as we can.

“At the same time, there is a tipping point where we may have to make some really difficult decisions but we will always consider what will have the least impact on the population in Hartlepool.”

The areas being considered for the cuts are those the council is not legally required to provide but which it says help improve people’s health and wellbeing.

Money the council gives to a programme promoting oral health and its commissioning of bereavement services are also proposed for review as part of £195,000 savings to the Health Improvement Budget.

The range of physical activities offered by the council’s sport and recreation department could be reduced to save £125,000.

The authority’s contribution to a taxi marshalling scheme, which helps revellers get home safely is also planned to come under review.

Councillors responded with dismay to the cuts they were facing.

Coun Alan Clark said of the substance misuse services: “I know there has been some fantastic work around that and transformed a lot of people’s lives.”

He added: “When is this going to end? We just can’t keep going on like this.”
Coun Jim Ainslie said: “I think the consequences of these cuts will all show in a few years time and I think it’s shameful.”

Councillors asked for more information on the potential impact of the proposed savings.

Ms Wallace added: “We will try to mitigate the impact as and where we can by mainstreaming in other areas or working with other partner organisations.

“But there will be a reduction in some services and a review of others.”

A final decision is due to be made by the full council when it sets next year’s budget in December.