Some big changes to the way Lancaster City Council delivers its services - along with higher charges - have been approved as the authority looks to weather the storm imposed by unrelenting government cuts.
In the current financial year (to March 2016) the council will receive £9million in funding from the Government. This falls to £7.9million in 2016/17 and £6.9million in 2017/18. By 2020, it is expected to fall to around £5.9million. Back in 2010/11, before ‘austerity' kicked in, comparative Government funding was as high as £15.1M.
As a result the council has to find savings of £5.5million over the next four years.
On Wednesday (March 2) Full Council approved spending plans for the next two financial years that will save £2.8million annually.
Councillors also agreed to set in motion a number of service reviews that will look to find the additional £2.7million in annual savings needed by 2020.
Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “These are unprecedented times for the city council and local government as a whole.
“Even when I first elected to the council in the 1980s I would have found it inconceivable that cuts of this nature would have to be made and it appals me that we are having to do so now.
“But we have no other option – Council Tax only provides part of the money we need to run our services. The remainder comes from the government and as they’ve cut the money they give us there is simply not enough to go round.
The government talks about creating a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – the trouble is they’ve taken away all the fuel and left us only with kindling.
“They are decimating public services and the cuts we are being forced to make will have a huge impact on our communities.”
Councillors also approved an increase in the city council’s portion of Council Tax by £5 (for a Band D property) to raise more money and reduce the overall savings target. As the majority of households are in Bands A-C the actual increase will be less.Budget proposals agreed by Full Council include:
- A one-off invest to save scheme of £5m for Salt Ayre Sports Centre to improve facilities, increasing income and saving £400,000 (rising to £500,000 in 2020) a year. Over the next four years this investment in Salt Ayre alone will bring in savings of £1.2m and this will increase over time, as savings will continue in future years.
- Charging £30 per year for each household for the collection of garden waste, bringing in £870,000 a year (pdf, 165kb)
- Ending CCTV coverage (pdf, 168kb)
- Withdrawing from the International Youth Games (pdf, 166kb)
- Handing management responsibility for the community pools in Heysham, Carnforth and Hornby back to Lancashire County Council saving £176,700 a year (pdf, 164kb)
- Reducing the amount it costs the council to put on the Vintage Festival in Morecambe and the fireworks event in Lancaster (pdf, 167kb)
- Charging £1 for admission to the Splash Park in Happy Mount Park (pdf, 254kb)
Savings options for 2018-20 that are required to reduce the budget by a further £2.7million annually by 2020. No decisions have been made to bring in these options and they are subject to further review:
- Refuse collection – moving from a two to three week collection.
- Grants to the Arts – reviewing the grants provided to arts organisations.
- Reviewing the future of Lancaster’s museums.
- Office accommodation – reviewing the buildings the council operates from (including the two town halls).
These savings are on top of the reductions that the county council are being forced to make which will impact on citizens and their services in many ways, but also impacting on city council services including:
- Homelessness prevention will be affected with the ending of funding for supported housing schemes. As a result there is expected to be an increase in applications from people in crisis situations.
- Support for community alarms used by council housing tenants will stop by March 2017 and tenants will have to pay the charge for the service.
- Funding to subsidise charges for sheltered housing scheme managers will cease, meaning tenants will have to make up the shortfall.
- Weedspraying will not take place, leaf sweeping will continue but will take longer, grassing cutting on rural verges will reduce.
- From April 2016 the county council will no longer allow district councils to collect food waste for recycling.
- Details of when charges that have been agreed will come into force will be made available in due course.
Last updated: 24 March 2016