Over the last few years, £150m in government cuts have been made to our county council budget.
At full council members were advised by leader Martin Hill that a further £90m is to be removed annually from the budget from April 2015 until 2019.
The impact of this statement was a stunned silence as members considered just how further cuts can be made without affecting vital services. In the last few years 33 per cent of the county’s funding has been cut. As cuts bite, services which are not ring-fenced become more threatened.
There is a proposal to cut the fire brigade budget and a public consultation is currently taking place. The proposals will see an increased reliance on reserve firefighters and reduction in the number of firefighters who respond to a call out. These proposals are based on the previous budget cut, and already key frontline services are being affected. The news that a further £90m is to be cut is a bitter pill. Our emergency rescue services also handle flooding emergencies; I have urged the cabinet member responsible to ensure the fire brigade budget is protected from any further cuts or lives will be at risk.
Over 1,000 posts have been lost at LCC since 2011. Whilst some departments serve the needs of a relatively low number of people, as more cuts are made the impact will increase and the most vulnerable will be affected.
The LCAS Scheme is a further example. Offering food vouchers, emergency help with bills and signposting to other help the scheme originally offered emergency cash payments. This support was lost last year. The council has now been advised that the Government has ceased its welfare assistance fund altogether, which means that funding for these vital safety-net services must now come directly from the squeezed local authority budget.
At full council the Labour Group pointed out the huge resources that LCC put to fighting for more police officers under a Labour government (which it got) yet the current Conservative-led council administration appears to be far less vigorous when faced with huge cuts in budget under a Conservative government.