THE scale of the savings challenge facing Cumbria County Council was laid bare today at a meeting of the full council in Kendal.
Up to three in every four pounds which councils receive to provide local services comes from national government and this is being reduced at levels never before seen as part of efforts to balance the nation’s books.
Cumbria is no different and by 2018, the county council will have £200 million less to spend each year on local services when compared with the start of the decade – equivalent to around £870 for every household in Cumbria.
The council has already saved £88 million and identified a further £39 million of savings by moving money from the back-room to the frontline and taking difficult decisions on services.
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The scale of savings which the government is asking the county council to make means a more fundamental approach is needed to identify the remaining £70 million which the council needs to find over the next three years.
As a result, the council will be using this year (2014/15) to develop a clear and comprehensive set of savings proposals for the full three year period (April 2015 to April 2018).
At today’s meeting, councillors agreed to a three-phased awareness, engagement and consultation approach to identify and develop savings proposals for the full three-year period.
Initially, engagement and discussions will take place with key partners, such as the third sector network and CALC (Cumbria Association of Local Councils), over the coming months to help shape the proposals.
The county council’s scrutiny function will also be involved earlier to give council members the opportunity to inform the development of savings options.
A formal public consultation process, on specific savings options, will then take place from the autumn (2014) so that everyone can have input before a budget is agreed in February 2015.
Coun Jo Stephenson, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, said: “It is time to grasp the nettle and do what we know has to be done.
"We have worked incredibly hard to find almost £130 million pounds of savings the council has already identified, but this final £70m is going to be toughest step of all – the really difficult decisions that can’t be avoided any longer.
"This will require a co-ordinated approach with partners, members, council employees and the public.
“We can’t avoid the fact that the council is losing one in every four pounds which it used to receive to pay for local services as part of the government’s efforts to tackle the national deficit.
" That is why we want to have a big, open conversation about what is essential, what can be done differently and what has to stop.”