'It cannot be right' - Hartlepool councillor's fear over future cuts

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Concerns have been raised by opposition councillors over why planned potential savings earmarked for future years have not been revealed to the public.

Hartlepool Borough Council has approved its £2.6million saving plans for 2022-23 while also highlighting potential savings for future years.

Councillors were told there were £856,000 of savings earmarked for 2023-24 and £164,000 for 2024-25, which were provisionally backed by a majority vote, although the details of the efficiencies were listed on private papers and therefore not publicly available.

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Council chiefs said this is due to the savings impacting services, and the jobs of people who carry them out, and are dependent on future government financial packages.

Councillor Jonathan Brash.Councillor Jonathan Brash.
Councillor Jonathan Brash.

Cllr Shane Moore, the council’s leader, stressed the decisions would not come into effect until votes in future years, when information would be publicly available, but stressed that having a three-year plan ensures they are in the “best possible financial situation”.

But Labour’s Cllr Jonathan Brash said: “I am concerned that decisions which I believe will be very much in the public interest in a very significant way, can be taken without the public knowing about it.

“I can’t say, and they can’t know the details of the decision. There is something wrong with the process, it cannot be right.”

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Denise McGuckin, council managing director, explained the authority has to come up with a three-year budget plan, in accordance with Local Government Association advice, but also said: “We do not know what the Government financial settlement will be in future years.

“You never know, we may in future years end up with a better financial settlement and therefore savings will not have to be made.”