Extra cash won’t provide long-term fix for funding crisis, says Leader
County Council Leader Martin Tett says a cash injection from the Government may delay some cuts – but will ultimately not avert the ‘pain’ of the funding crisis that has hit Buckinghamshire.
Addressing his Cabinet today, Cllr Tett thanked the Government for listening to the Council’s representations and giving the Council £10.8m extra over the next three years.
This followed the shock announcement just before Christmas of a massive £53m reduction in central Government grant over the next four years. This is likely to result in significant cuts as well as a proposed council tax increase of 3.99%.
Cllr Tett told how he had enlisted the help of the county’s MPs and had met with Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, after the settlement was revealed on December 17.
Subsequently, the extra transitional funding has been given to the county – and Cabinet members will hold an extraordinary meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) evening to discuss what this will mean in terms of phasing in some cuts.
He told colleagues today he was ‘very pleased’ the Secretary of State has listened and given the additional money. The transitional funding would enable members to smooth out the reductions in services and prepare for cuts, and would fund some one-off projects aimed at reducing costs in the longer term, he said.
But Cllr Tett stressed the extra funding would not be a long-term fix because the Government grant will have entirely disappeared in the next three years.
“What we can’t do is put money back into budgets that permanently save revenue cuts that we would otherwise have to make,” he said.
At today’s Cabinet meeting, Cllr Tett was given the support of former Leader David Shakespeare, who is chairman of the budget scrutiny inquiry group which examined the Cabinet’s funding recommendations in the wake of the Government grant cut.
Cllr Shakespeare said: “All the members of the inquiry group understood just how difficult your job has been this year. These are the most severe cuts fromthe Government to local government that I have ever seen in my lifetime in council work. So we do appreciate the enormous amount of work that you as a Cabinet have had to put in to try to reach that balanced budget.”
Cllr Tett added: “No one around this table came into local government to make the sort of cuts we are now talking about. We all came here to serve the public – these are very difficult times. I’m aware that we are collectively having to make some really difficult decisions that impact on the lives of lots of people in this county.”