£34m Nottinghamshire County Council ‘savings’ spark row

UNISON Notts County protest rally against County Council cuts.  The protestors marched from Trent Bridge and on to County Hall  (w110224-2k)
UNISON Notts County protest rally against County Council cuts. The protestors marched from Trent Bridge and on to County Hall (w110224-2k)

A ROW has broken out at County Hall after council leaders announced they have made budget savings of £34m - just 18 months after a wave of cuts to services and staff.

Nottinghamshire County Council said last week it was down to ‘good housekeeping’ that the authority had managed to shave the sum off its projected spending for 2011-12.

But opposition councillors and union bosses condemned what they called an ‘underspend’ motivated by political reasons and questioned whether the cuts had been necessary.

Leader of the Labour Group, Coun Alan Rhodes, said: “The county council’s financial predictions were grossly inaccurate and inconsistent; this seriously questions the Conservatives’ ability to manage finances effectively.

“The Conservatives are either completely misleading the public or they are incapable of making accurate financial predictions.

“It makes a complete mockery of ‘we are all in this together’, 2,000 job losses at the council, increase to charges to the most vulnerable for vital care services, major cuts to grants for the voluntary sector, switching off our street lights. How much of this was really necessary?”

Unison, which represents hundreds of workers at the authority, said the underspend was ‘deliberate’ and an attempt to use the economic situation as an excuse to cut and privatise services.

Mike Scott, branch organiser, said: “The £34m underspend is the largest in the history of Nottinghamshire County Council and represents thousands of public service jobs.”

The council says it will reinvest the money to stimulate the local economy, provide better value-for-money services, investment in major capital projects and a fourth consecutive Council Tax freeze.

Coun Reg Adair, chairman of the finance and property committee, said: “The fact that we have been able to save £34m at the same time as delivering service improvements and a third successive Council Tax freeze is a remarkable achievement and puts in a position to be able to deliver a further Council Tax freeze next year.”

Mansfield Independent councillors Steve Garner and June Stendall said the savings were good news and would enable Council Tax to be frozen and further investment made in capital projects.