Cash cuts claim by councillors

ADDITIONAL county council cash cuts will lead to worse services - many of them in areas in which Cambridgeshire excels, opposition councillors have claimed. In particular, road maintenance will be cut back to bail out a rise in spending on adult social ca

ADDITIONAL county council cash cuts will lead to worse services - many of them in areas in which Cambridgeshire excels, opposition councillors have claimed.

In particular, road maintenance will be cut back to bail out a rise in spending on adult social care - a demand-led budget, influenced by people moving into the fastest-growing county in England. The council could reduce people's eligibility for help, but refuses to do so, said council leader, Councillor Keith Walters, from Sawtry.

The Liberal Democrats are furious that the controlling Tories have kept details of the £2.8million cuts secret until yesterday (Tuesday), when they were released in a 17-page document.

They say the axe will fall particularly on adult social care, roads, libraries and will include almost £1million from children and young people's services and more than £1.3million from care for vulnerable adults.


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Even after these cuts, predicted CCC overspends are likely to amount to £1.76million, with a further £1.5million being lost by the council's trading services.

But most of the identified cost-savings are penny numbers when set alongside the council's £500million-plus annual budget. Nearly half of that is spent on schools, which have achieved the status of Government sacred cattle, with untouchable budgets, putting extra pressure on discretionary spending.

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Some of the £530,000 to be raided from the road maintenance budget could be restored in February if the winter is not too harsh and the need to send gritting crews out night after night does not materialise. "Routine road maintenance will virtually come to a halt for the rest of the year, but we can start again next year (in April) or sooner if the position improves," Cllr Walters told The Hunts Post.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr Julian Huppert, complained: "I am disappointed it has taken the county council so long to come clean about the nature of these cuts. The Lib Dems have had to work very hard to ensure that people around Cambridgeshire knew of the consequences of the Conservative county council's financial mismanagement.

"Cuts to children's services, cuts to adult social care, cuts to roads maintenance, and to libraries - all of this will hurt the more vulnerable people in our county particularly hard.

"To make matters even worse, because most of the cuts are one-off items, this just means that the county will have to find even more cuts next year, and in future years - it will take a long time to pay off the overspends the council's cabinet has racked up every year over the last few years."

But Cllr Walters said the council's guiding principle had been to minimise the pain to service users in the most important areas.

"The easy way would have been to change the eligibility criteria for adult social care. But that would simply have passed the problem on to the primary care trust. Nonetheless, something has to give."

The PCT is about to announce details of how it plans to deal with its own predicted £33million county-wide deficit.

Some of the savings are efficiencies that should have been achieved as a matter of course. Some may have cost more to identify than the cash they will save. Others, such as part of the reduction in the library book fund that has only this year been increased after a series of freezes, are a sad reflection of social priorities.

Other savings include:

# Re-introducing a request charge for adult non-fiction books.

# Delaying improvements to customers service and business support.

# Deferring under-age test purchases for age-restricted products by Trading Standards.

# Putting off buying stab-vests and bio-security equipment, which could entail enforcement activities if there were an outbreak of animal disease.

# Freezing recruitment to senior adult support services, potentially leaving front-line staff overworked or leaderless.

# Demanding more money from the NHS to cover health-driven social care expenditure.

# Cutting back the amount of respite care available to hard-pressed families.

# Reducing marketing of bus transport (CCC has the best record of any English county in expanding bus use).

# Cutting back on bridge and other discretionary highway maintenance.

# Freeze bulb changes for traffic lights.

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