Council set to cut services to bare legal minimum
Further to Northampton’s well-documented problems ...
... now East Sussex ...
Grim news from the Northamptonshire Telegraph:
Community Law Service (CLS), formerly known as Welfare Rights, will have its Northamptonshire County Council contract terminated at the end of this month (September 2018).
Citizens advice services in Corby, Kettering, Daventry and South Northants, which work in partnership with CLS, will also have their grant withdrawn as part of £220,000 of savings being made from the information, advice and guidance service budget.
The organisations, which together offer specialist advice to more than 4,000 county residents each year, say the cuts will have a devastating effect and lead to more residents getting into debt, more families becoming homeless and more people developing mental health problems.
Somerset CC - ‘has unveiled plans to lose up to 130 jobs and cut major services so it can balance its books.
Somerset County Council has announced cutbacks to highways, public transport and special needs services. Staff will also be told to take two days unpaid leave for the next two years.
The authority needed to save £19.5m in 2017/18, but only made cuts of £11.1m.
Its chief executive said he had been left with “no choice” due to reduced funding from central government.
Other proposals include:
Reducing the winter gritting network from 23 to 16 routes
Suspending Taunton’s two park and ride services
Removal of funding for Citizens Advice bureau services
Cuts to adult social care and support for people with learning disabilities
Cutting funding, and 80 jobs, from the GetSet programme which helps prevent vulnerable young people ending up in social care
Leader of the Conservative-run council David Fothergill said the authority had now reached the “very sharp end” of continued austerity’.
A plan to scrap Northamptonshire’s eight councils has been backed by all but one of them.
The proposal to replace them with two unitary authorities from 2020 is to be sent to ministers ... and is expected to be approved.
Update re Somerset:
On Wednesday, the eight-person cabinet of Somerset county council voted through £28m of spending cuts, spread over the next two years. Over the previous six months, speculation had raged over whether Somerset would become the next Conservative-run council to join Northamptonshire in effectively going bankrupt and calling in government commissioners to sort out its mess.
And here was the answer, delivered at not much more than a week’s notice. To avoid a final disastrous plunge into the red, there would be a hacking-down of help for vulnerable families and children with special educational needs, youth services, road-gritting, flood prevention, and much more.
.. meanwhile in Suffolk ...
Services are set to be cut and jobs lost as part of a £11.2m package of savings proposed by Suffolk County Council.
the BBC report says that propsals include -
‘... Reducing housing-related support for people in their own tenancies…
Removal of the Citizens Advice Bureau grant
Reducing the legal, training and equipment costs at trading standards
Streamlining running costs in educational psychologists service…’
Suffolk CC going to cut the entire budegt for their local CAB. Which is pretty poor and shortsighted in the extrreme.
edited to insert correct name of council, d’oh.[ Edited: 19 Nov 2018 at 01:40 pm by Paul_Treloar_AgeUK ]
It’s been happening for years. As a trustee I had the striking off notice from Companies House for Herefordshire CABx yesterday following the councils withdrawal of all money.
Very sad news on many fronts. But still leaves the question if the CABx in some areas are having to close their doors, who is going to be providing Universal Support in these areas? Will the artist formerly known as NACAB be stumping up to LA’s to provide this? Herefordshire is a largely rural county - who is going to want to take on Universal Support in those circumstances?
As Paul says “pretty poor and shortsighted in the extreme”.
More re Suffolk, from the Law Society Gazette:
.. and from the East Anglian Daily Times:
Meanwhile, back in Northamptonshire:
The government has in effect bailed out Tory-run Northamptonshire county council after giving it unprecedented permission to spend up to £60m of cash received from the sale of its HQ on funding day-to-day services.
The highly unusual move – accounting rules normally prevent councils using capital receipts in this way – means the crisis-hit authority is likely to escape falling into insolvency for the third time in less than a year.
Local authority sustainability defined as ‘statutory services’ only, says Minister:
The government’s definition of financial sustainability among councils is whether statutory services can be delivered locally, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s permanent secretary has said ...
Appearing before the Commons’ public accounts committee yesterday Ms Dawes said: “Local government is sustainable if the amount of resources available to it can deliver the statutory services which it is required to do. That is what parliament has laid out and that is our primary focus.”
When asked to define the baseline for what is expected of statutory services however, Ms Dawes could not point to a single metric. She said the baseline was found on an on-going basis through a “very detailed engagement” with ministers.
And a response:
The truth is finally out. Parliament has been told that ministers have no vision for local government beyond carrying out basic functions dictated by Whitehall ...
Council leaders from some of Britain’s biggest cities are demanding an emergency cash injection to stop a “catastrophic collapse” of authorities that have faced the biggest cuts to their support.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published a report highlighting cases where budget cuts have led to poor local authority services. Ombudsman Michael King comments -
‘While I appreciate the challenges councils are dealing with, we cannot make concessions for failures attributed to budget pressures and must continue to hold authorities to account against relevant legislation, standards, guidance and their own policies.’
Update from Northamptonshire:
The government has been accused of “pushing the cost of failure on to local people” after ministers gave bankrupt, Tory-controlled Northamptonshire special dispensation to raise council tax above normal limits to help balance its books.
The secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, James Brokenshire, announced on Tuesday that the stricken county council would be allowed to raise the council tax rate to 5% in 2019-20 to try and turn around its troubled finances.
Although a number of other councils have also asked Brokenshire for dispensation to raise council tax beyond the current 2.99% limit, he said he had rejected their request to protect council taxpayers, in line with the Tory manifesto.
From an annual survey of English councils by the Local Government Information Unit:
Nearly a third of councils (29%) were planning cuts from April in adult social care, 24% plan to reduce children’s care services, 16% to reduce special education and disability support, one in 10 plan to cut homelessness support and nearly a fifth will cut grants to the local Citizens Advice bureaux.
Here’s that report form the Local Government Information Unit ... https://www.lgiu.org.uk/report/lgiu-mj-state-of-local-government-finance-survey-2019/
Not social welfare law, but interesting re impacts of austerity at a local level ... a new postcode tool from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism ...
The local government funding crisis has become so dire that councils are being forced to sell thousands of public spaces, such as libraries, community centres and playgrounds.
In a double blow to communities, some local authorities are using the money raised from selling off buildings and land to pay for hundreds of redundancies, including in vital frontline services.
In a major collaborative investigation with HuffPost UK and regional journalists across the country, the Bureau has compiled data on more than 12,000 public spaces disposed of by councils since 2014/15.
The findings lay bare the spiralling impact of eight successive years of austerity, leaving services shut and buildings closed. Councils have been forced to take ever more desperate measures to stay in the black as their funding from central government has been cut by about 60% since 2010.
The postcode tool is at: https://council-sell-off.thebureauinvestigates.com/