Submit your email address below to receive email updates from Cumbria24.
Work on how Cumbria County Council will deliver an estimated £50m-£60m worth of savings over the next four years will intensify following the publication of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review today.
Initial interpretations of the Chancellor's roadmap of public finances from 2011 to 2015 indicate that local authorities will have to shoulder a heavier burden than other Government departments in reducing the national deficit.
Although individual local authorities will not know until early December how their individual budgets and grants have been affected, the settlement indicates that the amount of money central Government has allocated for all local authorities has fallen by over 25% - far more than the 19% reduction in overall public expenditure over the next four years.
If that level of reduction is applied in Cumbria, it would mean Cumbria County Council will need to save £50m-£60m by 2015 - a figure that senior council officers and members had already been planning for in preparing the council's strategic priorities and early budget outlines.
Many of the details in the Comprehensive Spending Review remain unclear and the county council will only have a true picture of the direct impact on its finances once the Local Government Finance Settlement is released in early December. That settlement will also make it clearer what proportion of the cuts need to be delivered in year one - although initial interpretations of CSR suggest the cuts are spread fairly evenly over the first two years, followed by a reduction in savings in year three.
The county council will also be seeking clarity on certain key issues, including:
- Whether the capital funding committed for improving 600 schools will include Cumbrian schools originally included in the Building Schools for the Future programme, before being removed from the list in July 2010.
- How much of the extra £2bn allocated for social care for older people is rolled into existing budgets and grants, and whether this is simply a reflection of changing demographics.
- Further details on how the incentive scheme for councils to freeze council tax next year will operate, and how this will operate in years two, three and four of the CSR period.
- How the Chancellor's commitment in his speech to protect spending on Fire and Rescue Services tallies with details in the CSR document that fire resource expenditure will reduce by 13% over the four year period and central Government grants to local authorities will reduce by 25%.
- Whether a reduction in capital expenditure by the Home Office involves scrapping proposals to build a new prison in Carlisle.
- What the impact will be on jobs in Barrow-in-Furness as a result of the revised Trident delivery programme.
Cllr Stewart Young, Deputy Leader of Cumbria County Council and Cabinet member responsible for resources, said:
"The financial tsunami we've all anticipated has now been confirmed. Cuts of this magnitude have never been seen before and delivering this level of savings is going to require radical reform of what we do and how we do it.
"Members will be working closely with officers and other organisations in the county to draw up a range of proposed savings, changes in the way we deliver services and other proposed measures to reduce our expenditure.
"We will be consulting with the public and working closely with our partner organisations and the trade unions in delivering these changes. It is too early to say what the direct impact will be on our services and jobs at the county council, but as soon as we have that clarity we will be open, transparent and fair about what we will have to do to deliver these savings."
Cllr Young added that the Comprehensive Spending Review did include some positive messages for Cumbria, including:
- News that Cumbria had been confirmed as one of four rural pilot areas to receive millions of pounds of investment in superfast broadband infrastructure. Cumbria County Council supported three bids from the county submitted to Government earlier in the summer to be part of this pilot.
- The protection of funding at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to ensure the ongoing decommissioning work at Sellafield.
- Confirmation that the capital investment in the new West Cumberland hospital will go ahead.