£12.2m budget ‘blow’ to council

Peter Box
Peter Box

COUNCIL chiefs have slammed government plans to slash their funding by an extra £12.2m over the next two years.

Wakefield Council bosses said the proposals are yet another “blow” to the local authority who will now have to find savings of £66m over the next four years.

The council has already slashed £41m from its budget since 2010 and had aimed to save £54m by 2014/15.

But changes to the way authorities are funded – including providing lower grants to councils who implement a council tax freeze and changing the way business rates are distributed – mean Wakefield Council will lose a further £12.2m in funding.

Council leader Peter Box said: “This is fundamentally unacceptable and unreasonable.

“Not only is this government yet again making further cuts to the money we need to provide essential and major public services, but it is not giving us any time to make the plans to deal with this.

“These extra cuts are being announced less than six months from when they will impact on services and the actual funding amounts, which we will have to use to calculate our budget for 2013/14, won’t be clear until December.

“This would be no way to run a business and it is certainly no way to run public services.”

Council bosses estimate they will lose £7.5m in 2013/2014 and £4.7m in 2014/2015 as a result of the changes – which are to be enforced next April – but said it was too early to tell whether there would be any job losses.

During the last two years the council received a government grant equivalent to increasing council tax by 2.5 per cent – but under the new system they will receive just one per cent if they freeze for another year.

Councils which refuse the grant offer will be restricted to raising council tax by two per cent and forced to hold a referendum for any increase above that level.

In addition, councils will now retain a proportion of the business rates income which they collect locally and receive a smaller amount of grant funding through the government.

Coun Box added: “Over the last two years we have clearly shown we are an effective, resilient and efficient council, but there is no doubt this further financial blow will test us to the limit.

“We are all facing an unprecedented economic situation but the council remains committed to protecting the vulnerable and those most in need and will continue to do all we can to support our local communities and businesses.”