Warwickshire council plans savings of £16m in budget review

Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick.

Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick.

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Cuts to museums and a hike in parking fees at country parks such as Burton Dassett are among Warwickshire County Council’s plans to generate £16 million in savings in the next financial year.

The planned savings, laid out in a report by the authority ahead of its annual budget meeting tomorrow (Thursday), are part of a four-year plan from 2014 to 2018 to save £66.4 million.

The Conservative-controlled council has justified the cuts by presenting them in a wider national context and has announced a rise of four per cent on the amount it takes from council tax payers as part of their overall bill.

The reports says: “The authority continues to make its contribution towards the need for austerity to put the nation’s finances on a sure footing.

“Over the past five years, Warwickshire County Council has played its part in reducing the national deficit. We have delivered savings of £98 million since 2010.”

In its budget papers, the authority has laid out ‘large service reductions in some heritage and culture services and a focus on increasing volunteering and commercial viability’.

This could save the authority £173,000 over 12 months but could put museums at risk or lead to admission prices being raised.

The authority is also planning on ‘reviewing alternative delivery models to enable country parks to become self financing’.

This could save £178,000 but also lead to parking prices rising.

Road safety education could also come under threat with the council looking to make savings of £200,000 in this area.

The council will also aim to save £585,000 from its child social care and safe guarding budget ‘by reducing the numbers of looked after children by ensuring that children receive the right help at the right time’.

And jobs could be lost due to the council’s ‘review of its general support budget in line with the changes in services across the business unit’ in order to save £1.9 million.

Those opposing the cuts are also concerned about the budget for 2017 to 2018.

Green Party member and Brunswick ward councillor Jonathan Chilvers said: “Through the slashing of our services like libraries, children’s centres and homeless hostels the people of Warwickshire have already contributed more than our fair share in reducing the national deficit.

“These brutal cuts imposed by the Conservative Government are a huge smack in the face when put next to the ‘sweetheart’ tax deals the government has signed up to with big companies like Google.

“The cuts for 2017/18 are the ones that people didn’t really want to do or think possible and hoped that things would have improved by then.

“In fact, these cuts are going to be even more severe because of the central Conservative government grant settlement.”

Labour councillors have put forward their own budget and responded to the Conservative proposals.

Cllr June Tandy, leader of the Labour group, said: “Labours budget this year has been carefully calculated bearing in mind that just a few weeks ago the Conservative government dumped a further £10m cut on WCC.

“As well as allowing the Council to raise the Council Tax by 1.99 per cent and instead of allocating the funding themselves they have told Local Authorities that they can raise the Council Tax by a further 2 per cent to be spent on Adult Services.

The Labour budget includes:

- Redirecting a further £300k to go into Children’s Centres

- Taking ten per cent of social care services reserves and putting it back into the budget for adult and children mental health services.

- Funding toward road safety education for children.

- Restoring the supporting people funding toward disadvantaged, elderly and young people to live independently.

- Other smaller amounts of funding for front line services.

Cllr Tandy said: “To accommodate this funding we have looked closely at where money can be saved and have reduced budgets such as catering, conferences, agency staff and consultants.

“We have also instigated an efficiency target in our central services such as human resources, property maintenance and reducing the amount of cabinet members to seven instead of nine plus other savings.

“Hopefully other political parties in Warwickshire will support the Labour budget to ensure front line services can be delivered to people who really need it.”