Funding cuts ‘threaten existence of services’ in Nottinghamshire, council leader says

Coun Alan Rhodes
Coun Alan Rhodes

Government funding cuts are threatening the existence of many services in Nottinghamshire, according to the leader of the county council.

Councillor Alan Rhodes has written to all of the area’s MP’s to express his concern at the impact of the latest cuts on local people.

The county council has already made £212 million of savings and efficiencies since 2010, but still needs to reduce its annual spending by £62 million over the next three years.

And the main government grant for council services for 2016/17, announced by the Chancellor in December, was £9 million worse than anticipated and represented a 30 per cent drop on the previous year’s grant.

Cllr Rhodes, who is calling on Nottinghamshire’s MPs to raise the issues with Ministers as a matter of urgency, said: “We had planned our medium term financial strategy based on a worst case scenario for government grant reductions but what was ultimately announced is even worse than the worst case scenario.

“The current settlement threatens the very existence of many of our services.

“Local government is already the most efficient part of the public sector and Nottinghamshire County Council has demonstrated its ability to do more for less through innovative service delivery, year-after-year but those opportunities are becoming increasingly exhausted.

“I am alarmed at the disconnect between central and local government, with decisions being taken at a national level with seemingly little or no understanding of their impact on normal people.”

Councillor Rhodes said that the County Council is likely to be left with no choice other than to take up the option of a social care levy, offered by the Government, in 2016/17 - equivalent to a 2 per cent increase in Council Tax - to protect services to the elderly and disabled as far as possible. This would be in addition to a council tax increase of 1.99 per cent, agreed as part of the discussions involving all main political groups at the county council.

He acknowledged that introducing a social care levy may prove to be a stumbling block for the continuation of the joint-budget agreement, which has seen all the council’s political groups working together to develop the budget proposals for the first time ever.

In his letter, Councillor Rhodes set out a number of ways in which the government could alleviate the immediate threat to local services posed by the additional funding cut, including:

• Bringing the implementation of the new Better Care Fund forward by one year to 2017/18, which would also help reduce the increasing strain on the NHS

• Revising the method used to distribute grants to properly recognise the pressures on Councils providing social care services

• Devolve more flexibility and freedom over Council Tax levels to local Councils and make the Council Tax freeze grant element of the grant a permanent funding source

Councillor Rhodes added: “The measures we are proposing will not solve the long term issues facing local services and local communities but will at least provide some short term breathing space.

“The pressures of demographic growth, an ageing population and other demands mean that county council’s like Nottinghamshire will soon face the prospect of not being able to deliver our basic statutory functions.”