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County to decide on another £45m in cuts

Author: 
Chris Satori


As part of efforts to secure its future financial security despite government austerity policies, Lancashire County Council's (LCC) cabinet will consider further savings of more than £45m, identified during a detailed review of service budgets, when it meets on Thursday 14 September. Roads, libraries and buses will all receive increased budgets but Adult Social Care and Children's Services face further cuts. 

LCC claim that the proposed savings, which would come from more than 30 services, are not expected to have a negative impact on front line service delivery, as they would come 'mainly from efficiencies, recurrent underspends, income generation and service changes'.

However their plans include £5.5m of cuts to adult social care, despite receiving additional funds for those services from council tax payers. Lancashire County Council added a 2% precept ring-fenced for the sector. This raised £8m. 

Children's Social Services face a cut of £3.5m.

25% fewer people receiving social care

One in ten councils had already cut adult social care spending by more than a quarter between 2009 and 2015, according to a report published by last April by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).  It revealed spending by councils on adult social care fell on average by 11% between 2009-10 and 2015-16.  Although the number of people in need of social care has increased, Polly Simpson, a research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report, said: “The spending cuts analysed in our report have been accompanied by a substantial fall in the number of people receiving social care: down 25% across England, between 2009–10 and 2013–14 alone.”

In 2016 LCC had to decide on how to apply further budget cuts of over £262m through until 20121, on top of previous savings. Their broader financial position, as detailed in their current Cabinet update, remains extremely challenging, as a combination of government austerity measures, inflationary pressures and rising demand means that the funding gap the county council faces has been steadily increasing. It is currently forecast to be £167m in 2021/22, including £90m in adult social care.

Improvement?

The Leader of Lancashire County Council, Geoff Driver, CBE, said: "The county council's financial situation is clearly extremely challenging and one of our key priorities is to create a more financially stable council that will enable us to future-proof our improvements to critical services for the most vulnerable in our communities.

"This detailed line-by-line review of all service budgets has identified significant savings and is a very helpful first step to putting the council's finances on an even keel. Clearly we will need to make more savings in the future and we are working very hard to look at how we can do that in a way that allows us to protect front-line services."

Cllr Driver, who is currently out on bail until November 22, pending a police investigation into an alleged LCC contracting scam, went on to say:

"Every council in the country has to make decisions about how it uses its resources and we are absolutely committed to funding those services that we know people value, by reopening libraries, investing in good quality roads and local environments, and supporting bus services."

Plans to reopen libraries

The council, which passed into Conservative control earlier this year, has announced plans to reopen three local libraries which had been closed during earlier rounds of cuts. 

A report to the cabinet meeting on Thursday 14 September sets out their plans to increase the highway maintenance budget to £5.6m, which is to include works on Thirlmere Road, Patterdale Road and Keswick Road in Lancaster. LCC also plans to increase its investment in rural commercial bus services from £2m to £3. 

 

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