The future of public services is changing, and no area of service provision will be untouched by these changes. This is the case not only in local government, but also in the civil service, the NHS and others.
This page outlines what we think the future of Copeland Borough Council service provision will be, along with some examples from other local councils and public services of the tough decisions they are making, and news and reports on the state of public finances.
As we have already said, the future for all councils is more cuts. We know that the Government plan to continue their austerity programme for the duration of this parliament and into the next one, should they win re-election.
In fact, in June 2013 they announced details of a further average 15% cut to funding for district councils in 2015/16. The announcement puts further pressure on the long term sustainability of our budget.
The savings we have had to make this year are relatively limited, due to the two year programme of larger cuts we started last year. But, sadly this does not mean that the bad times are behind us. The most challenging times are still to come.
Because we have already made some big cuts to our behind-the-scenes operating costs and support services, as well as to our discretionary services, we must now look at some more fundamental changes. This will include reviewing the services we have to provide by law – looking at what is the most cost effective way to deliver the service we are obliged to, and identifying whether there are things we provide that we do not need to.
Whilst doing this, we want to continue to protect those most vulnerable in society, through measures like not passing on the cost of the Localised Support for Council Tax scheme to those who cannot afford to pay it and supporting the work of organisations like the North Lakes Foodbank and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
We also want to make sure services that are increasing in demand, like our homelessness support service, continue to be available. We will also continue with work to improve access to such services.
Over the next year we will review all our work and look at the best way to deliver our statutory services. It is likely we will operate very differently – this might mean we no longer operate services ourselves – we could run them with a partner like another council or community organisation, or we could look to contract these out to the private sector.
Whichever option we choose, the cuts that we are seeing from the Government guarantee that in the future we will be a smaller organisation, doing less, with fewer staff. The process will undoubtedly be painful at times with difficult decisions to be taken, but we will work hard to ensure we are ready for the future and a new council.
The situation in Cumbria
Copeland isn't the only Cumbrian public sector body having to make some difficult decisions:
- Carlisle City Council has announced that it is to stop maintaining 21 of its play parks (around a third of the total across the city) due to funding cuts. The council faces a budget shortfall of £4m over the next five years. The news was covered in the Friday 24 January 2014 issue of the Cumberland News.
- Cumbria County Council has announced its draft budget for 2014/15, which includes cuts to services, as part of an approach to try and save £24.5m next year and a total of £89m between 2014/15 and 2016/17. Changes include the phased introduction of resident parking permit charges and on-street town centre parking changes, reductions in verge maintenance and streamlining service provision. Some controversial changes (including reducing the number of fire engines at some fire stations) were dropped.
- Allerdale Borough Council has confirmed that it needs to make £5m of spending cuts over the next decade to address reductions in funding. Among the possible savings are the removal of grants to parish councils, which have been reduced in recent years ahead of their scrapping, and a reduction in lighting on public footways.
How cuts are affecting other areas and other organisations
Other councils and public bodies are also having to make some difficult decisions about the services they provide, so they can balance the books. We list some examples below, which help showcase the challenges facing public services.
- Wolverhampton City Council announced in January 2014 that it is to stop all non-essential spending in a bid to avoid ‘insolvency’ The story has been covered in the local government press and in the local newspaper, the Express and Star.
- Middlesborough Council's elected Mayor, Ray Mallon has announced 40 separate cuts of around £15m, which will see the closure of community centres; reductions in grass cutting, grounds maintenance and litter picking; closure of a sports stadium; and the contracting out of services. 600 jobs will also be lost. The story has been covered in the local government press and on the council's website.
- Salford Council is collecting savings ideas from members of the public and staff in a bid to make £25m cuts this year. This story has been covered in the local government press, on the council's website and in the local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News.
- Liverpool City Council’s three-year budget could force statutory services to slash spending by a quarter as part of £156m savings plans. Under a list of proposals drawn up by city mayor Joe Anderson, mandatory services would be forced to find 25% savings while discretionary services endure a 50% spending cut.
- Leeds City Council is to cut 200 jobs next year - on top of the 1,800 posts already lost in the past three years – as it tries to save £50m from its budget. It also revealed plans to increase council tax by 1.99% and make savings of £5.4m in procurement, £5.5m in back-office functions, £0.8m in insurance charges and £6.6m through fee income increases.
- Wakefield Council’s budget for 2014/15, includes 1,400 job cuts and the reduction of services. The council, which must save £61m over the next two years, warned ‘deteriorating services and fewer jobs’ are the themes of its budget report. The news has been covered in the local government press.
This section of the page outlines other changes or noteworthy updates on the picture for public sector finances.
- More than one in three councils believe financial constraints may stop them delivering their legal duties, research has found. The story was covered in the local government press.
- The Leader of Birmingham City Council (the largest local authority in the country) believes that funding cuts will create a financial crisis for many councils by 2015, which will leave them struggling to deliver statutory services. The story was covered in the local government press.