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Essential services at risk in face of Government cuts

Wolverhampton City Council's finance chief has warned that the authority could find it impossible to pay for essential services after the Government announced yet more cuts to its budget in 2015 to 2016.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, Wolverhampton's Cabinet Member for Resources, said that more grim news from Whitehall this week meant it was most unlikely that the books could be balanced in 2015 to 2016 without putting services that the council is required to provide by law - like caring for the elderly or emptying bins - at risk.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) yesterday announced details of funding for councils from 2014 to 2016.

Wolverhampton City Council, which announced in October that it needed to save £98 million over the next 5 years, has now revised that figure to in the region of £120 million after the new information from DCLG.

Councillor Johnson said: "The blows to Wolverhampton from this Government just keep on raining down. We described the situation back in October as a dark day for the city, but now things are even bleaker because Government are cutting our grant by even more than we predicted and the savings we need to make are now even more astronomical at £120 million.

"We will be able to set a balanced budget in March 2014, but at the expense of huge cuts to services that are currently out to consultation, but it is most unlikely that we will be able to do so the following year

"People probably get bored of hearing all these figures being thrown around, but let me be very clear what this actually means. We have a legal duty to balance the books and in order to do that in the face of ever increasing cuts from Government, we are going to have to do incredibly difficult things that none of us came into local government to do.

"£120 million is enormous - particularly when you consider we have already saved £100 million in recent years. We have no option but to balance the books - it is a legal requirement. Such is the challenge now facing us that I am not clear how we will continue providing the statutory, essential services we are obliged to and still produce a balanced budget.

"It is fair to say that the services people value and take for granted from the council are at risk in the face of these savage Government cuts.

"We are not going to sit back and do nothing, we will be making strong representations to Government and tell them that enough is enough. We can't just keep being expected to make cuts like this and still provide the services we are required to."

  • released: Thursday 19 December, 2013