Warwickshire saves £98m but prepares for more cuts in latest budget

Budget
Budget

Warwickshire’s latest budget has been set with an increase in council tax and more cuts to meet financial pressures, despite savings of £98m being made in the past five years.

The county council passed its planned savings at its budget meeting on Thursday, amid an ongoing four-year plan to save £66.4 million by 2018.

MHLC-06-06-13  Warwickshire county council Leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe. ENGNNL00120130606152650

MHLC-06-06-13 Warwickshire county council Leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe. ENGNNL00120130606152650

Amended proposals were voted through after the largest party, Conservatives, got support from independent members. Liberal Democrats abstained and Labour refused to support proposals.

The budget for the coming financial year will see large service reductions in heritage and culture centres, a rise in council tax and changes to adult social care and services.

It was this week announced that Warwickshire will be given £2.9 million as its share of additional one-off funding for the next two years.

The money is designed to temporarily bridge the gap between the money the council is forecast to spend on services and its available funding.

We have worked with the people of Warwickshire to deliver savings whilst maintaining a high level of services

Cllr Izzi Seccombe

But Cllr Izzi Seccombe, leader of the council which has no political majority, said they have been able to “significantly reduce costs in recent years” and will continue to find new ways of working.

The Conservative councillor said: “I believe that we have made strong progress as a council over the last three years. Throughout this time we have maintained the confidence of the people of Warwickshire.

“And at a time of further financial challenge we will keep a clear focus on our ambition to grow the county’s economy, to help create employment and opportunity, whilst ensuring the most vulnerable residents across Warwickshire are protected.

“We have worked with the people of Warwickshire to deliver savings whilst maintaining a high level of services.”

The approved budget sees a £2m investment in highways and investment to help ensure that children who leave care in the county are supported in independent living.

The approved proposals which were voted through also include for a programme to support extra family support workers, and an extra £4 million over two years on the highway maintenance.

The council has delivered £98m of savings over the last five years by making large reductions in back office costs, increasing partnerships and making cuts to services.

But it must now make even greater savings to meet its four-year plan and factor in the latest cut in the Government’s Revenue Support Grant funding, which will create a £22.8 million budget shortfall in the next two years.

Cllr Seccombe said the new challenges were “disappointing”, despite fighting the case with ministers.

The council must make £2m of savings in a review of the general support budget

There is also set to be £585,000 cuts to child social care and safeguarding, ‘by reducing the numbers of looked-after children’ by reorganising how care is delivered.

There will be £200,000 of cuts to road safety education and a loss of £178,000 for country parks, which could see sites rising parking and admission charges to cover costs.

The council is also facing £173,000 of reductions in some heritage and culture services, with a new a focus on increasing volunteering and commercial viability of museum sites.

The council’s budget vote was passed with 28 for, 23 against and 10 abstained.