EXPECTATIONS of what a council can provide must change, the leader of North Yorkshire County Council warned after a further round of drastic budget cuts was agreed.
It has already identified £94m worth of savings but is still faced with having to axe a further £74m.
Since 2011 the county has implemented and planned for cuts of about £170m. The savings amount to a reduction of about one third of the council’s spending power.
In a sombre meeting of the executive today (Tuesday, February 4), county councillors voted through measures to make these savings, which will impact on virtually every service the council provides.
Chief executive Richard Flintoff said the “sheer enormity” of the budget and the challenge it posed was “unprecedented” and said the cuts could not be addressed through piecemeal cuts every year.
Savings will have to be made from facilities currently provided for children and young people, services for the elderly, including care homes, services for disabled children and children in care.
Reviews of these services will now commence – followed by extensive consultation. The council has said it is likely to result in the closure of more libraries and some children’s centres, although frontline work is likely to be protected.
Household waste recycling centres may be transferred to commercial operators, or charges introduced.
Its winter maintenance budget will also be reduced by about £750,000.
The austerity measures are likely to continue until the end of the decade, if not longer.
Speaking afterwards, council leader John Weighell said the face of the council was likely to change significantly.
“It will be an altogether smaller government. Hopefully the critical services will be maintained but enforced in a slightly different way.
“I think this has been coming about for quite a few years now. Peoples’ expectations of council services will have to change; that applies across the whole country; there will be less government across the board.”
The executive also agree to a 1.99 per cent council tax increase, which may have to be reduced if central government impose a cap on tax rises tomorrow (Wednesday, February 4).
Coun Carl Les said people could blame bankers or successive governments for the current crisis facing councils, but added: “It doesn’t really matter who we have to blame; the situation is we have to deal with is the £94m of cuts dealt with so far and the £74m still to come. That will be the challenge.
“If you remove 34 per cent of our spending, we can’t continue services as we have done in the past.”