Fair Choices for Tough Times

  • 20 November 2012
    Newcastle City Council today outlined proposals to make cuts of £90m over three years - equal to £760 for every household in the city.Government funding cuts, greater demand for services and rising cost pressures mean the council will need to save £38m next year alone, rising to £90m in the third year. This is a cut of more than one third of its...

Newcastle City Council today outlined proposals to make cuts of £90m over three years - equal to £760 for every household in the city.

Government funding cuts, greater demand for services and rising cost pressures mean the council will need to save £38m next year alone, rising to £90m in the third year. This is a cut of more than one third of its overall revenue budget, and comes on top of a £100m saving over the last two years.

In its toughest ever financial challenge, the council pledged to set a legal balanced budget, invest wisely to generate income and provide services more efficiently.

But it warned that the scale of Government cuts has left it with no alternative but to cut some services that people have come to rely upon.

In a move to help hard-pressed families, the council is once again proposing to freeze the level of council tax.

But around 1,300 jobs will go at the council over three years as it goes through a radical restructure.

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Nick Forbes, said: "This is one of the darkest days for public service in Newcastle. Cutting services is not what I went into politics to do.

"The cut in Government grant is grossly unfair - at a time when more and more families are turning to us for help. Financially, this has put us in an impossible position from which there is no escape.

"We will not abandon the residents of this city, but as we cease to provide some services they will have to do more for themselves and expect less from the council.

"Despite the tough choices we are forced to make, we will apply a fairness test to every decision by listening to residents and analysing future needs.

"We remain a very ambitious city; focused on attracting and growing new businesses for employment. By becoming a Working City, and thriving in a global economy, will we tackle inequality and poverty.

"That is why we will be pressing ahead with a capital programme of just over £400m providing super-fast broadband, better transport networks, new employment skills and affordable homes.

"At the same time we will not let up on lobbying Government to get a fair deal for Newcastle.

"I urge residents to tell us what they think of our proposals over the next few months so we can join together in one loud voice to tell the Government: enough is enough."

Deep grant cuts and massive cost pressures have left the council facing significant financial difficulties over the next three years. To balance its budget it is proposing to:

  • Develop a core library service of eight buildings with the City Library at its heart but resulting in the closure of 10 branch libraries - still leaving 96 per cent of residents within a 1.5 miles of a library
  • Close the City Pool - in need of major repairs - and help swimming clubs relocate to other pools in the city
  • Transfer responsibility for four leisure centres,  but retain responsibility for three - Walker Activity Dome, the Centre for Sport in Westgate and the East End Pool
  • Move from weekly to fortnightly bin collections bringing it in line with most other councils
  • Set up a new unit to tackle anti-social behaviour and environmental crime with greater emphasis on prevention
  • Invest in new, high quality refuge accommodation for women and children affected by domestic violence
  • £3m for flood prevention and repairs
     

As a result of the restructure, senior management posts will be halved. The council will continue to work closely with the trade unions to try and avoid compulsory redundancies where possible through redeployment.

The draft budget proposals will be presented to Cabinet on Wednesday, November 28 when a formal consultation begins and residents can comment on the proposals. To access them in full go to www.newcastle.gov.uk/budget2016

To take part in the consultation go to www.letstalknewcastle.co.uk/budget2016

Cabinet will meet again on February 25th to consider the budget consultation and make final recommendations to council which will set the budget and council tax on March 6th.

Proposals for 2014 and beyond will be reviewed next year.

The purpose of the three-year budget approach is to help partners, businesses and the voluntary and community sector better plan for the future and give more time for consultation and discussion with communities. Also, it give greater scope to find solutions to potential closure of services and facilities.