COLUMN: ‘Tipping point’ for council cuts

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Despite the county council’s budget reducing by £212m since 2010, on-going financial difficulties meant we were facing a tipping point in our history and we needed to adopt a radical approach to how we developed our savings proposals.

It demanded a different type of politics that put our residents ahead of any personal or political differences.

So, for the first time in the county council’s history, we brought together councillors from all political groups to develop the county council’s budget proposals for 2016/17.

The £20m in savings and income generation proposals we are introducing as a result will ensure that the council can proceed with a balanced budget from April.

But huge challenges remain. And whilst the way we set about the annual challenge of setting a budget was very different this year, the catastrophic Government cuts to funding for local services were all too familiar with this year’s 30 per cent reduction being worse than our worst case scenario projections.

And the future doesn’t look any easier. This year we were given sight of what the Government will provide through the Revenue Support Grant - our main source of funding from the Government - for the next four years. This look into the future shows the Revenue Support Grant disappearing to virtually nothing by 2020.

This is at a time when demand for social care services to the elderly, people with disabilities and children continues to rise.

It’s getting harder, year after year, but we remain absolutely determined to do all we can to protect these services to the most vulnerable people in our communities.

So, with regret, we are left with no option other than to introduce a social care levy on council tax bills - an option given to councils by Chancellor George Osborne to be spent exclusively on social care services for the most vulnerable.

In Nottinghamshire, the social care levy will raise an estimated £6m towards the £219m needed to provide social care services in 2016/17, putting around 40p a week on the average bill.

We’ll spend around £13m extra on social care from April this year, but it’s still £9m short of the amount needed just to keep services at current levels, due to increased demand and new costs pressures.

None of us like an increase in household bills, but I believe most people recognise the position we are in and realise we have little choice.