BRADFORD Council chiefs have warned of the need to make “very difficult decisions” as they are forced to slash their budget by an estimated £115m before 2016-17.
The figure is more than quarter of the authority’s current budget and is in addition to the £100m it has already cut over the past three years.
The council yesterday said more than three-quarters of the £115m will have to be found in the next two years – with £38m savings needed in 2014-15 and about £50m the year after.
In a statement, it warned: “There is a limit to what can be achieved before cuts have to be made to front-line services.”
The news follows a recent announcement by neighbouring Calderdale Council that it faces having to find £23.9m of savings by 2017 – taking the total cuts since 2010 to £96m.
Calderdale was the first council in the region to publish new financial forecasts following Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement in June that local government needed to make further savings.
The figures were branded “devastating” by Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift.
On current forecasts, councils across Yorkshire say that by the end of 2016 they will have cut £1bn from their budgets since 2010.
Bradford Council is now asking residents and local organisations to have their say on where the axe should fall ahead of the budget- setting meeting next February.
The cuts come at a time of a growing population in the district and high levels of unemployment and deprivation – all placing additional pressures on services.
Bradford Council’s savings so far have included £20m in reducing management and back office support, £2m on communications and £3m on buildings.
The statement said: “The council cannot continue to provide and commission all the services local people currently use.
“Councillors will have to make very difficult decisions about what services to do less of, which services to do differently, which services to charge for, or charge more for, and what services to stop.”
Council leader David Green said: “Up to now, while things have been by no means easy, we’ve worked hard to make big efficiency and productivity gains, rather than slashing front-line services. This has helped us to provide some protection to your most important council services.
“We are now at the stage where further cuts to services are inevitable, however unpalatable that may be.
“That’s why I am asking [the public] to take part in an honest and open conversation about what council services should look like, what’s most important and what’s less so given the massively reduced resources at our disposal and our responsibility to the most vulnerable people.”
Bradford is the 26th most deprived authority in England, placing it in the top 10 per cent across the country.
Earlier this week, the leader of Kirklees Council, Mehboob Khan, called for a “fundamental shift” in the relationship between councils and their communities amid the financial challenges faced by local authorities.
Coun Khan said: “Up until now people haven’t seen any major front-line services shut so they think its a phoney war about cuts but it’s not.
“There are some very serious and difficult decisions which have to be made in the next couple of years which will have a massive impact.”
In North Yorkshire, a public consultation is already underway at the Conservative-controlled county council over proposals which could see up to £2m shaved off the authority’s annual social care budget of £140m as it grapples with enforcing cuts of nearly £160m by 2018-19 – almost a third less than the overall revenue budget the authority had only eight years previously.
Detailed information about Bradford Council spending, and the council’s budget setting process, can be found at www.bradford.gov.uk/budget
The council’s executive committee will publish its initial budget proposals for the next two years on October 28.
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