Monday, 30 November 2015

Fury as Cuts in Council Funding Stepped up by Government

Cat Smith speaking at a recent meeting at Lancaster Priory. Photo: Ben Soffa
Cuts to local government funding in the latest government Spending Review will spell misery for Lancaster and Morecambe residents as both the City and County Councils are forced to make savings by cutting vital services, warns Lancaster's MP and City Council leader.

Both city council leader Elieen Blamire and Lancaster MP Cat Smith have now commented on the latest Review, announced last week by Chancellor George Osborne.

Welcoming the u-turn Osborne made on cuts to tax credits and policing budgets which have been key campaigns she has been fighting over the past weeks and months, MP Cat Smith saw no reason to celebrate any claimed "end of austerity" by the right wing press.

"Sadly those on Universal Credit will still see their living standards squeezed," she said, "and when we have already lost 17,000 police officers no further cuts to policing doesn't mean much to those police staff who have lost their jobs already.

"In addition deep cuts are being made to many departments that will have harmful consequences. Cuts to the Department of Transport and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for example, will have a detrimental impact on services and jobs locally."

"I'm concerned that, despite promises from the Prime Minister that he would have balanced the books by now the deficit is set to be almost £70 billion this year and that manufacturing output is still more that 6% below its pre-crisis level. The UK's current account deficit reached the highest level ever recorded last year - 5.1%.

"George Osborne is opening a deficit with the future. His choices will leave future generations to pick up the bill."

Last week, the County Council voted in favour of cuts to spending that could see the closure of the Judges Lodgings museum, 40 libraries across the county and further savings that will impact public transport users. Nearly 5000 people have now signed an online petition protesting at the planned museum closure.

The city council is also looking at making many savings.

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “Whilst the Government has unexpectedly backed down from making cuts in some areas, notably working tax credits and police funding, unfortunately that doesn’t apply to local government services.

"Core funding is expected to reduce by 24% over the next few years, and this is on top of the cuts of 40% or so that we’re already managing. The overall scale of cuts being faced is unprecedented in living memory. Their effect cannot be underestimated and local government and the services it provides will be decimated as a result.

“We have already seen the likely effect that the government cuts are having on Lancashire County Council and libraries, museums, transport and the arts.

“The city council faces equally stark choices and over the next four years we are working on having to save up to £4million from our annual budget by 2019/20.

“Cabinet is due to meet next week and we will be discussing the outcome of the Autumn Statement, but we won’t know any detail until the Local Government Finance Settlement in December so it’s after this that we’ll be able to come forward with our proposals. Even then, there will still be uncertainties as the Government will be phasing in some of its other funding changes.

“But it is clear that we will be forced to make controversial and unpalatable decisions with services that people rely on having to close.”

You can sign the Judges Lodgings museum petition here

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