THURROCK Council has made savings to deal with a £25 million reduction in government grants since 2010 – and is looking to repeat the procedure between bnow and 2018.
That was then stark message from Cllr John Kent, Leader of the Council, at Wednesday evening’s meeting of the council’s cabinet.
He told members: “I must remind cabinet that we have said for some time that the next three years were going to be incredibly tough and the cuts in government funding that we are facing will be hard to take without impacting on front line services.
“I am not sure the gravity of those cuts has been quite understood in all quarters so here and now I’m going to explain them, year-by-year.
“I must say that these are like-for-like figures; money for responsibilities we had in 2010 and still have today. We’ve had increases, £8.6 million for public health for example, and for the return of full planning powers following the demise of the development corporation.
“But the way grants work has been changed as well as shrunk.”
Cllr Kent explained: “In 2010, much of the money was destined for specific services, so much to support bus services; so much for sweeping the streets, and so on. These days all the little grants are swept up into one – and then that’s cut.
“So, in 2010/11 Thurrock’s grant went up by £1.8 million – not enough I’ll admit, but at least there was an increase.
“Then, for the first time ever, local councils like ours had to deal with in-year cuts, we had to take £4 million out even though we’d planned what to do and already started to spend it – overall, that’s a £2.2 million cut.
“The following year - 2011/12 – our grant was cut by a further £7.7 million and in 12/13 and 13/14 the cut was £3.3 million and £5.9 million respectively.
“This year, making up the grand total of £25 million, the cut was £6.9 million - that’s a fifth of our overall budget and it’s only the start.”
He said: “Every year in or around December the government announces what it will be granting to local authorities, but it also informs us of its plans further ahead, so we are expecting – and prudently planning for – further cuts of £9.1million next year, £8.2 million in 2016/17 and £6.66 million, the year after that.
“Yet as everyone who runs a budget at home knows, that’s not the whole picture. There is inflation to consider and increasing pressures on what money is left.
“Just as growing children eat up more and more of a family’s income, the council has to ensure it provides the safety net for increasing numbers of children and vulnerable adults with fewer and fewer resources.
“So we’ve had our budget cut by £25 million and if the government’s as good as its word, there’s another £25 million cut in grant to come between now and 2018. These are frightening figures, but something we as a council, we as a borough, and we as local people have to face up to.
“There is no simple option. There is no acceptable option either. We need to work together, we need to listen to everyone’s ideas and then we need to decide which the least unacceptable option actually is.
“I want as many people as possible to look at the proposals we’re considering and a page on our website will be launched tomorrow under the ‘Tough choices’ heading. It will be directly available from the council’s homepage.
The website page is available at thurrock.gov.uk/tough-choices