Batten down the hatches because things may be about to get very bumpy.
After the Conservatives announced their ‘emergency’ budget on July 8, details of their plans for even more cuts to public services are now starting to emerge.
This week the Chancellor, George Osborne, asked Whitehall Departments to plan for additional cuts of between 25 per cent and 40 per cent by 2019/20. That is an extra £20 billion and includes funding for local councils.
Of course it isn’t just councils that are facing further cuts. The police, fire service, public transport and many other services are all set to take another financial hit. By the end of the period, we will have had a decade of cuts to public sector budgets.
To put these figures in context, in May 2010 when David Cameron became Prime Minister, Doncaster Council received an annual Government grant of £270m per year. By May 2015 the grant had been cut to £148m per year and all at a time of increasing prices and demand for services. That figure is now set to fall even further.
More than half of the council’s budget for running services is spent on children’s social care, adult social care and the elderly. Other major areas of spend include street cleaning, grass cutting, waste collection, road maintenance, street lighting, public transport, public health, education and youth services.
I recognise the wider economic situation caused by the financial crisis and there is no doubt that local government did have scope to make savings. In Doncaster, like elsewhere, we have already managed to save many millions of pounds while shielding members of the public from the worst of the cuts.
However, there is only so far that these cuts can go without people starting to feel the pinch.
Speaking about the announcement Chair of the Local Government Association, Coun Gary Porter said: “For many councils, there are few efficiencies left to be made and these alone will not be enough to cope with further funding reductions. Vital services, such as caring for the elderly, protecting children, collecting bins and filling potholes, will struggle to continue at current levels.”
I agree. We have taken a robust approach to our financial plans, implementing a three-year budget and putting in place many initiatives to save money while, in a number of areas, improving services. As a former accountant you would expect me to do just that, however, I must also be honest with the people of Doncaster.
In the autumn we will find out what the detailed financial impact on Doncaster will be, but in 2020, councils across the country are likely to look very different than they did in 2010, with fewer services provided for local people.