Services facing cuts as the crunch bites

JOBS, nursing beds and library services could all be slashed in a round of council cost-cutting measures.

JOBS, nursing beds and library services could all be slashed in a round of council cost-cutting measures. A host of services will come under the spotlight next week as Durham County Council bosses try to set the new budget ready for the area’s new super council, being set up on April 1.

Its hoped an estimated £20m will be saved by merging the seven district authorities and getting rid of duplication on some services. But a shortfall of £1.6m still needs to be met in a bid to balance the books because of the credit crunch, claim council chiefs.

Council leader Simon Henig said the hugely complex task of setting the budget had not been made any easier by the global credit crunch.

He added: “We have not escaped the impact of the current economic downturn.

“Every year our spending power is bolstered by interest earned form the short term investment of funds which would otherwise lie dormant in bank accounts until they were needed.

“While we have escaped the levels of loss experienced by some councils we are not forecasting to make as much return as we have in previous years.”

The council has £10.5m of savings to make but plans to invest an extra £7.9m in services leaving the £1.6m shortfall.

Departments earmarked to take the brunt of the cuts include Adults, Wellbeing and Health, Children and Young People’s services and Neighbourhood services. A slice of the savings could come from job losses among home care teams and the finance department, in total clawing back £160,000.

Other cost-savings measures could include stopping audio visual hire at all libraries, reducing the communities fund and phasing out student awards, currently costing £90,000. Plans for potential investment could see an extra £400,000 being spent on the council’s bus strategy, £100,000 for subsidised bus services and a further £300,000 to help at-risk families.

If the recommendations are backed by councillors an extra £1m could be set aside to spend on services for the increasing number of older people in County Durham.

Coun Henig said: “We are near the end of the budget-making process of unprecedented complexity, yet despite the difficulties involved I believe what is being proposed meets people’s needs and the expectations that the move to a new era of local government has created.

The possible cost-cutting measures, along with the new budget, will be decided by a meeting of Durham County Council’s cabinet on January 29.


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