Tax payers in Warwickshire will pay extra to soften the blow of budget cuts on social services and to ensure the jobs of tens of fire and rescue service staff are not lost over the next three years.
But hundreds of other council employees could lose their jobs, children’s centres could close and the number of available health visitors could be reduced along with help for those who have suffered from strokes or have addictions under Warwickshire County Council’s budget.
The budget, which covers the council’s spending this coming financial year and up to 2020, was agreed between the authority’s leading Conservative Group and its Labour Group at a meeting of the full council at its Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick last Thursday.
A reduction of Government grant money means the council must find £67 million of savings from its £400 million budget over the next three years, including £33 million this year alone.
This is on top of the authority having needed to find £100 million savings since 2010
As a result, the authority will rise its share of council tax, which makes up about 80 per cent of a payer’s bill, by four per cent per household - 50 per cent of which will go towards an adult social care levy this year and over the next three years.
The Conservative Group has said it will offset some of the difficulties presented by the reduced budget by pressing on with a £55 million capital investment programme and has pledged to ‘continue to protect the most vulnerable residents’ in Warwickshire.
Projects receiving funding from the capital investment programme, which will run beyond 2020, include the £14 million Kenilworth Station project, £2 million work on Portobello Bridge and a £2.6 million revamp of Stanks Island roundabout in Warwick, £500,000 on improving Warwick Town Centre and paying the remaining £1 million of the bill for the controversial £60 million Western Relief Road in Rugby.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the council’s leader, said: “Despite incredibly challenging circumstances we have seen considerable growth in Warwickshire in recent years.
“This budget will build upon the good work already done by the Conservative administration at Shire Hall since 2013.
“We will be creating an Investment Fund to improve the county’s infrastructure and we will be providing additional support to help regenerate our town centres.
“We will also build on the incredible success of our Apprenticeship Hub that has led to the county council itself, as well as many local firms, being listed within the top 100 UK businesses delivering apprenticeships.
“As well as continuing to deliver economic growth across the county this budget will provide additional support for our most vulnerable residents.
“We will be providing further investment in extra-care housing which will support people in their own homes, giving them the independence they crave as well as the support they need.
“Although this is a joint budget with the Labour Group it has at its heart one of the Conservatives’ principal pledges: to support hard working families and keep them safe. We will be investing £1m more to improve the safety of routes to schools, protected the Home to School Transport budget, continued the investment in LED lighting which will support our ambition to turn many of the county’s street lights back on at night in the coming years and have ensured that none of Warwickshire’s retained firefighters will be lost.
“Despite the challenging conditions, thanks to strong and responsible leadership under the Conservatives the council is on a sound financial footing. We need to continue that good work in the coming years to ensure Warwickshire realises the bright future that we are building.”
When budget proposals were put forward by the council’s corporate board at the end of last year, Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service feared about 60 firefighter jobs could be axed as part of the savings plan.
This idea was scrapped, but the budget still includes a £2 million saving by 2020 through a possible merger with West Mercia Fire Service and a saving of £353,000 by implementing a new response model,
The council is likely to cut jobs in its human resources department and in social care 45 jobs could be lost by 2020 under a ‘reshaping of the workforce’ making a saving rising from £140,000 this year to £1.3 million by 2020.
People’s personal care budgets, which pay for home visits, will be hit with the council hoping to save £393,000 this year and £1.2 million by 2020.
More people will be expected to look after their elderly parents under plans to ‘develop and shape community alternatives’ to reduce demand on adult social care which could save £210,0000 this year and up to £3.5 million by 2020.
The council is aiming to make a saving of up to £5.2 million by 2020 and £408,000 this year by reducing the need for children to go into and stay in care.
To help with this, the council will invest in 40 additional social workers plus additional support capacity to reduce caseloads and provide greater support for the vulnerable children.
The community services business unit, which covers areas such as trading standards and youth justice, will also have a budget reduction of £1.4 million and £3 million by 2020 which will lead to job losses.
Public health will have a budget cut of £2.5 million this year and nearly £5 million by 2020. This covers areas such as services to help alcoholics and drug addicts and home visits by health visitors and family nurse practitioners.
Jonathan Chilvers, Green Party county councillor for South Leamington, said: “For the seventh year in a row, Conservative central government have slashed funding for local services like roads, older people care, support for those recovering from addictions, libraries and fire.
“Central government make these choices in London, but refuse to recognise the impact they have on residents’ lives in Warwickshire.
“The final budget deal had some protection for children’s centres and homeless support services which we had called for, but didn’t commit towards the key areas of improving work and school commute through investing in walking and cycling routes or helping those on lower incomes with the ongoing council tax rises.”