For the first time in 17 years, the East Riding of Yorkshire council has passed a budget, shaped and influenced by the opposition groups, and reflects the new no overall control situation on the council.
The Conservative leadership needed to make budget concessions to the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Yorkshire Party groups in order to deliver a budget which was approved by 53 votes at today’s budget council meeting.
Leader of the Opposition, Lib Dem Cllr Denis Healy, spelt out the council’s stark financial position in the face of punitive funding reductions from the central government.
The council forecasts an overspend of £12.7m in the current financial year, caused mainly by higher-than-expected inflation levels coupled with rising demand for adult and children’s social care services.
To balance the books in the new financial year, the council will need to use one-off money of £11.6m from its reserves and generate £8.3m of savings from its organisational budgets, as well as bringing in an extra £7.3m of income from services.
Cllr Healy said:
“Even if the council manages to do all those things and balance the books next year, there will still be a deficit of over £6m within three years on current projections
“The Conservative government is hanging local councils out to dry, with one in five council leaders in England saying that they are likely or very or fairly likely to issue section 114 notices (a declaration of bankruptcy) this year or next year due to a lack of funding to keep key services running.
“The Conservative government is inflicting chaos and hardship on local councils starving them of the resources needed to keep council services running.
“They simply won’t accept the fundamental reality, that cost and demand pressures are rising faster than funding.
“In other parts of England we are seeing how Conservative cuts to council budgets are ripping local services to shreds and tearing the hearts out of many communities through less social care for the elderly and vulnerable, the closure of children’s centres, swimming pools, leisure centres, libraries, and a deterioration in the maintenance of recreational spaces such as parks and playgrounds
“There was no extra money for local councils in the government’s autumn statement, and when they made a local government finance statement in December, they told councils that they should just get on with using their reserves to balance the books.
That’s what’s this council is doing now with £11.6m of reserves, but once it’s gone it’s gone, and we are staring into another dark abyss next year.
“Opposition leaders have worked to influence a budget which is the only fiscally responsible option in the face of the Conservative government’s onslaught on the council’s finances.
“This is a budget which doesn’t belong to the Conservative group as in previous years. The opposition majority has gained concessions, and shaped and influenced this budget as it will continue to do with the implementation phase over the coming months. It’s a cross party member led budget which tries to provide a lifeboat for our residents in the face of a heartless Conservative government that simply doesn’t value local councils and the services they provide.
“I am particularly pleased with the announcement of extra financial support for the Do it For East Yorkshire community fund. This provides more money and puts ward councillors in charge of shaping worthwhile community projects in their wards. It has always been a long-held Liberal Democrat ambition to give more power and resources to individual communities through their ward councillors.”
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