Darlington councillors hit out at "unfair" cuts as they pass tough budget plan (From The Advertiser Series)
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Darlington councillors hit out at "unfair" cuts as they pass tough budget plan
DARLINGTON councillors attacked the Government for what they say are “unfair and inequitable” cuts as they agreed a new budget plan that could lead to only the most basic of services being provided.
Members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet met tonight (Tuesday, January 15) and agreed to a financial plan that will see £17m of budget cuts by 2016/17, on top of £24m already saved in the last two years.
If confirmed by full council next month, Darlington residents will see council tax rise by two per cent from April, with £4m of council revenue balances used to fund the savings required for 2013/14.
Redundancies are expected at the council in the coming months, although details of how the council plans to save £4m by trimming its operations are yet to be worked out.
The people of Darlington face now face a major programme of public consultation to determine where the unprecedented cuts will hit hardest in the coming years.
Councillors have warned repeatedly that the council could struggle to fund anything beyond its statutory duties, such as adult and children’s social care and refuse collection, if the cuts unfold as expected, leaving many services at risk of being lost altogether.
Councillor Stephen Harker, who chaired the cabinet meeting in the absence of council leader Bill Dixon, said: “These cuts are not fair and that frustrates me. They are not equitable and different local authorities are finding different challenges around the country.
“It’s not that we are having to deal with cuts, it’s that they are not being delivered equally across the country. The people that can least afford it are being hit really badly and that’s manifestly unfair.
“We are not all in this together, no matter what the government might try to say.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the Conservative group, said: “I agree that the allocations are not fair and we [the Tory group] have written to Eric Pickles (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) to make representations on that point. It’s something we have to continue to protest about.
“The Conservative group will work with the Labour group to try and ameliorate some of the problems we are going to face.”
Councillor Andy Scott, a Labour member, said: “I would love to get Eric Pickles in a room and ask him how he thinks local government can provide the services it does at the moment with a £17m cut in budget.”