North Yorkshire Council Council bosses say authority set for 'watershed budget' after nine years of austerity

Coun Carl Les, North Yorkshire County Council leader.
Coun Carl Les, North Yorkshire County Council leader.
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Council bosses in North Yorkshire who face having to make £197m worth of cuts say the authority is set for a “watershed budget” that will see spiralling demand for services replace austerity as its principal pressure.

North Yorkshire County Council chiefs have warned that despite having made £157m of cuts over the past nine years, including £40m less on frontline services and £117m of efficiency savings, it was facing overspending for the first time.

Gary Fielding, the authority’s director of strategic resources, said up until now the council had been “grappling with austerity and reductions in funding”.

He said: “That’s still ongoing but what characterises the budget now is not so much a focus on loss of funding, it’s demand going up and up and up for special educational needs, children and adult social care and home to school transport.

“This is a watershed year for the county council.

“We have been delivering savings ahead of schedule, but this year we have really seen some overheating in a way we have never had before.

“We are in a situation where we could be overspending for the first time.”

Mr Fielding said that while residents faced paying 4.99 per cent more to the authority for its share of council tax, costs had risen to £13,300 a year for each older adult supported at home, £31,500 for each care home resident, £26,600 to support each young adult with learning disabilities and £78,000 for each adult with learning disabilities in residential care.

He said he believed austerity would continue until after 2023, partly due to the amount of Government funding that had been pledged to the NHS.

The council’s leader, Coun Carl Les, said uncertainty over Brexit and the long-awaited revised funding formula for councils was making planning for the future more difficult.

The authority’s deputy leader, Coun Gareth Dadd, said while the authority had faced the consequences of “money flowing into the public sector like there was no tomorrow” before 2009, councils more than any other public sector area had borne the brunt of austerity.

Mr Fielding said the concept of austerity itself had helped the council remain financially solvent, adding: “You try negotiating with staff, communities and suppliers if you don’t have a burning platform.”

There are things we should always be looking out for, but we have been able to do them because we have had to respond to austerity.”