Warning over service cuts

LEADER: Council leader Christopher Akers-Blecher and Joe Bradley
LEADER: Council leader Christopher Akers-Blecher and Joe Bradley

SENIOR officers have warned ongoing budget cuts mean Hartlepool Council will soon reach the point were it has to stop some services.

Officials issued the stark warning as the initial budget talks for the next financial year, 2015-16 got underway - with the council needing to cut £5.626m in 2015-16 and £8.663m in 2016-17.

Councillors on the finance and policy committee met to discuss two reports, outlining early plans to cut £515,000 from the chief executive’s department and £2.4m from regeneration and neighbourhoods.

Regeneration and neighbourhoods director Denise Ogden said they hadn’t set individual targets for each division, instead looking at the “best options available that would cause residents the least pain”.

At the meeting savings of £650,000 were put forward from that department including:

* Reducing the Community Pool funding, which supports voluntary and community groups, by £220,000, as previously reported.

* Savings of £265,000 in property management. That includes property costs associated with the ongoing review of community centres and youth centres, and the closure of Adult Services Warren Road and the Community Safety premises in York Road.

* Savings of £115,000 from support services and £50,000 from the community safety budget.

Mrs Ogden added: “We are now in a position were the only alternative option is to stop some of the services.”

In the chief executive’s department, the majority of the £515,000 savings will come from removing posts left vacant, voluntary redundancies and early retirement.

The legal services division has to make savings of £65,000. Peter Devlin, chief solicitor, said they had no vacant posts and were trying to bring in more income.

More than 90 per cent of the savings in the chief executive’s department will be made by reducing staffing levels with some changes to day to day running costs.

Officers say they will be in a better position in October to say how jobs are affected by the 2015-16 cuts. Labour councillor Marjorie James wanted to know what the impact would be in terms of job losses when the reports came back.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons added: “The amount of stress put on the staff will increase with the cuts to come. While I appreciate we have to make the cuts we need to be careful with the health and wellbeing of remaining staff.” Andrew Atkin, assistant chief executive, said: “There is a move away from were we have been spreading resources to were we stop doing a particular service.”