The recent funding announcement for local councils was further evidence of the growing disconnect between central and local government, with decisions being taken at a national level with seemingly no understanding about their impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
We’d meticulously planned our budget, using all the information at our disposal about what the Government grant for local services was likely to be. As central government funding for local councils had been falling for many years, we planned on worst case scenario, hoping that the news would in fact be better and we could reverse some of the cuts we’d been forced to propose.
However, in reality, what the Chancellor delivered in December was a cut to funding which is worse than worst case scenario – a 30 per cent reduction on the 2015/16 grant, which has left us needing to find an additional £9m worth of extra cuts to local services, just to balance the books before the end of this month.
I am sorry to say this is likely to leave us with no choice other than to implement the social care levy offered by the Chancellor in recognition of the funding crisis faced by councils providing social care services. This equates to a 2 per cent increase in council tax bills and will raise £6m towards the £9m the council needs immediately just to stand still.
The county council has already secured £212m in savings and efficiencies since 2010, which has seen our workforce reduce by more than a quarter. Despite this, we’ve managed to protect most of the important, frontline services which are so valued by our communities, especially the most vulnerable where we rightly concentrate most of our resources.
Wherever possible we’ve made savings through reducing back-office costs, delivering services in different ways and working smarter but regretfully all those options are now virtually exhausted.
I wrote to all Nottinghamshire MPs about my concerns and I am pleased that Sir Alan Meale and Gloria De Piero have taken our message to the heart of Government. They have joined us in proposing a range of actions the Government can implement now, which would at least bring some short-term respite for people who rely on Nottinghamshire County Council and those other local authorities delivering social care services.
Like you I’m sure, we hope the Government is listening.