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Leader says county council finds itself in ‘difficult situation’ over £70m budget cuts

Council budget cuts
Council budget cuts

News that Derbyshire County Council must make £17 million more in cuts by 2022, taking the total required savings to £70 million, has been summarised as ‘difficult’ by its leader.

Last week it emerged that the authority must now save more than it expected by 2022 in order to reach a balanced budget – and bring an end to cutbacks.

The original £53 million target has increased in the past year to £70 million, an increase of nearly a third.

This is due to continued rising pressures in adult social care, children’s services and also waste management.

At a cabinet meeting today on Thursday, the authority’s leader Coun Barry Lewis, said: “In common with a lot of other county authorities we find ourselves in a difficult situation with regards to our budget.

“We are doing are best to manage our budget as well as we can. We are looking hard at all the areas in which we need to make savings and to reach a balance budget.

“It is all about being timely in our thinking.”

The authority’s finance director, Peter Handford, said that it was important that the council achieves ‘financial resilience’.

Last week, leader of the opposition, Labour’s Coun Anne Western, said that the authority must get to grips with having to do what is necessary to balance an ‘ever-shrinking’ budget.

She said: “The worsening financial position is very worrying because the county council is responsible for services people rely on, particularly the most vulnerable.”

So far, of the £70 million required in savings, £39 million has been identified.

The schedule for funding cuts includes the £12.4 million planned for this year.

This will be followed by £18.5 million in cuts during 2019; £26.5 million in 2020; and £12.7 million in 2021.

Mr Handford wrote in a report on the authority’s five-year financial plan: “The council continues to face significant cost pressures, particularly with regard to adult and children’s social care.

“The additional council tax income from the adult social care precept and the additional one per cent flexibility announced in December 2017, helps to raise income for vital services.

“However, the council will continue to make representations to Government to ensure that demand-led services are fully funded.”

In the report, he stated that it is still the authority’s intention to hike council tax next year by 4.99 per cent but freeze it in 2020 and 2021.

After this, it is proposed that council tax rises by two per cent in 2022.