More tough times ahead after cuts

Christopher Akers-Belcher
Christopher Akers-Belcher

WHILE there was good news for three Hartlepool schools yesterday, there was anger elsewhere after the Government announced further public spending cuts.

Hartlepool and east Durham is facing even tougher times after Chancellor George Osborne outlined £11.5bn of austerity measures in yesterday’s Spending Review.

Less cash from central government will be given to local councils, which have already struggled to find millions in savings.

Mr Osborne announced a 10 per cent budget cut for 2015-16 for the Local Government and Communities Department.

Hartlepool council leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “We already have a severe challenge ahead of us balancing the books and this is cutting even deeper than what we have already experienced.

“Local government has taken the greatest cut when compared to other government departments.

“We are having to pick up the pieces because the chancellor’s budget strategy and economic growth have failed.

“By 2014-15, the council’s net budget will be 43 per cent less than in 2010-11.”

Hartlepool Council already has to find £20m cuts needed by the start of 2016-17 after making £6m of savings so far.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the only positive regarding the latest cuts was that it gives the council time to look for potential schemes to generate new income.

But speaking of further council cuts he warned: “Nothing is sacred. We are going to have to look at every single service.”

Housing benefit, tax credits, disability benefits and pensioner benefits will all be subject to new welfare caps from April 2015, but not the state pension.

A council tax freeze, due to come to an end next April, will be extended for the next two years which Mr Osborne said would save the average family around £100.

Unions hit out at a one per cent pay rise limit for public sector workers included in the review.

Automatic pay progression for school, NHS, prison and police workers is also to be scrapped.

Stephen Thomas, Unison Labour party link officer for Hartlepool, said: “A one per cent cap is absolutely deplorable.

“In real terms local government workers have experienced a 16 per cent pay decrease over the last three years.

“The government’s attitude shows scant respect for the hard work that local government employees put in, usually on low pay, in providing vital services for Hartlepool.”