“Devon is still facing unprecedented austerity savings,” says Council Leader

Posted on: 18 December 2015

The Government has confirmed a final settlement for local authorities for the 2016/17 financial year.

In response, Cllr John Hart, Devon County Council’s Leader said: “The announcement makes it crystal clear that Devon is still facing unprecedented austerity savings.

“However I do welcome the Secretary of State’s move to give us greater clarity with a four-year provisional settlement and the opportunity to take more decisions locally on how we serve the people of this county.

“We have been planning for around £35 million of cuts to services in Devon for 2016/17 in order to balance our budget.

“That was based on very pessimistic assumptions of what our Government grant would be and assuming a cut of about 14.3 per cent.

“But I have to tell you that today’s announcement from the Government means a cut of 15.7 per cent which is £2.5 million less than we had forecast.

“News of specific grants is still coming in and we are hopeful that they will help balance this out. We will cope but I don’t want anyone to think it will not be extremely difficult to deliver and it certainly won’t be achieved without pain.

“Since 2009, my administration has got on with the job of making sensible efficiency savings whilst protecting frontline services for the young, the elderly and the vulnerable. We have reduced management costs, introduced partnership working with other councils and consolidated our property holdings.

“But we have also had to propose unpopular savings in some of the services we provide the people of Devon. Today’s announcement means no let-up in this agenda.

“Ministers have also made great play of the fact that councils across the country have allegedly been increasing their reserves – the money we keep back that is earmarked for specific projects and for emergencies.

“They’ve chosen to make a five-year comparison. However the rules on managing reserves were changed four years ago. If you compare like with like, over the past four years Devon’s reserves have actually reduced by £7.3million or minus 8.5 per cent so I totally refute the suggestion that we’re sitting on money in the bank at the same time as we’re making cuts.

“We actually have reserves that would pay for about four days running costs for Devon County Council and the independent District Auditor regularly tells us that’s not enough and we should increase them.”

Posted in: Politics