The (avoidable) Budget Cuts to Council Services and Staff
On Monday 18th March, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet is meeting to implement the totally unnecessary and avoidable cuts to services and staffing that now will have to be administered post the council’s budget decision.
By not putting up Council Tax for less than the price of a (weekly) chocolate bar, the council has to find an additional £4.672 million in savings, or better described as cuts. This is despite the Section 151 clearly giving her professional view that by going for a headline catching 0% will make services undeliverable, or heavily reduced.
So where are these extra cuts coming from? Are they just the highly-paid consultants that has been the justification for this budget? Put simply, no. These cuts are coming from contracted staff and vital agency staff used to cover for important positions, as without these types of staff, services would not be delivered.
For Adult Care and Support, cuts to the budget amounts to £840,000. The majority will come from staffing which could lead to short notice and I hope temporary closure of services like day care centres who reply on the flexibility of agency staff to cover staff sickness, maternity and other valid reasons. So much so, the Conservative Councillor who has responsibility in this area has resigned from his party in disgust on the budget decision.
Children, Schools and Families will have an eye-watering cut of £906,000. This directorate used agency staff to work within Children’s Social Work and Children’s centres. The savings will be delivered by reviewing and reducing agency staff, extending recruitment times for vacancies, which could potentially lead to saving having to be made to frontline services.
Face to Face services which includes the contact centre will have to find £358,000. Out of that amount, £270,000 will be delivered by reducing the operating and opening times of libraries and one stop shops, and by reducing the opening hours of the contact centre. This will probably be implemented as quickly as possible. This is no spin, this is the harsh reality of the budget.
The Chief Executive’s department has been told to find £674,000 in savings. Various reorganisations will have to take place within that department, which will lead to permanent staff losing their jobs with the remaining staff having to pick up their work load and/or seeing services reduced. At least 18 permanent staff will lose their jobs due to this cut.
Finance, the very people who help keep the council running in a stable financial footing will lose £320,000 from their budget. At least 12 permanent staff will go, resulting in the provision of minimum statutory cover and the loss of preventative work in fraud.
Other departments will see the following cuts; Environment, £387,000; Legal, Democratic and Procurement service, £122,000; Information Services, £488,000. This is on top of the £170 million in cuts that have to be carried out as part of the four-year budget.
No one likes to put up Council Tax, and Cornwall Council has not raised Council Tax for the last two-years. However, costs go up and services have to be provided. You also need people employed to provide those services. This budget has resulted in unnecessary cuts that could have been avoided.
I really believe if there was not an Election so close to the budget, Councillors would have provided a sensible and deliverable budget. But short-term headlines and campaign bragging-rights have been put before service delivery.