FURTHER to recent media coverage about Cumbria County Council’s budget setting process I want to thank you for helping us share with the public our plans for delivering our services whilst meeting our legal obligation to balance our books.

With a gross revenue and capital spend approaching £1bn, it is a complex business and I want to take this opportunity to update your readers on some key facts:

1. Of the £38 million new savings which have been identified nearly all of this has been achieved through prudent financial management and doing things differently, while protecting our front-line services.

2. Despite having reduced our spending by £215m since 2010 we have still been able to continue the level of investment in key areas. For example, in 2009/10 we spent £36 million on highways and in 2018/19 we have agreed that we will spend £52 million. During the same timescale we have spent twice as much on Children Looked After, from £14 million in 2009/10 to the £28 million agreed for next year.

For residential care we’ll be spending, at £88m, only slightly less than in 2009/10, and for support at home we'll be spending £74m compared to the £78m spent in 2009/10.

At £15.2m our fire and rescue service will see a reduction of less than a million pounds than was spent in 2009/10.

3. Based on what is known to be Government funding for councils over the next few years we know that there will need to be further budget reductions of almost £69m before 2021/22.

We will have to continue to explore how these further funding cuts can be made.

4. Council Tax increases are a difficult balancing act, especially when many people in Cumbria are only just about managing.

Aware of this we have, following consultation and support from the majority of the public who responded, increased our council tax share by just under four per cent, which is less that other areas with similar responsibilities: Surrey, Norfolk and Oxfordshire all increasing by six per cent and Warwickshire, North Yorkshire and Derbyshire increasing by five per cent.

I want to end by assuring people that we will continue to be open, honest and upfront with the people of Cumbria as we continue to deliver essential services with reduced Government contribution and keeping council tax increases lower than elsewhere.

Cllr Ian Stewart

Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Finance