North Yorkshire County Council, which is facing having to make more than £40m of savings over the next three years, is set to present its plight to a Treasury minister who has insisted the Government is “not making cuts to local authorities”.
The Conservative-run council, which has prided itself on its response to the demands of austerity, is set to tell the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss that the authority’s long-term financial position is “uncertain and difficult”.
The council’s leader, Coun Carl Les, who is set to meet Ms Truss during a visit to Yorkshire on Friday, said he would tell the minister that it had insufficient funding to meet the rising demands for a range of social care services and for children with special educational needs.
An officer’s report to the authority’s executive next week states: “Demand now features as a greater financial challenge than the reductions in government funding.
“The council is therefore no longer in a position where it merely needs to respond to reducing levels of funding; it now faces the prospect of sizeable and permanent increases in demand which will threaten the financial sustainability of the council unless appropriate medium term measures are taken.”
Before April, the council will have made £157.4m of savings since 2011, but it is estimated a further £40.3m will be needed in the next three years for the authority to balance its books. The total cuts of £197.7m would see the council’s spending power reduced by about 40 per cent.
The report states while savings proposals of £26.3m have been identified from 2019/20 to 2021/22, services from which to cut £14m will need to be addressed in future years.
This is despite the council using £5.3m of reserves to shore up its budget next year and proposing a total council tax increase of 4.99 per cent, resulting in a Band D council tax level of £1,311 for the council in 2019/20.
Other papers being presented to the executive state how meeting the total volume of cuts will be “extremely challenging to achieve”.
Coun Les said he would underline concerns over escalating demands on council services.
He said: “I am going to say we are containing service delivery at the margins, and we are somewhat better at doing it than we were before, but the funding we have is not enough to meet the growing demands.”
The meeting comes just three months after Ms Truss stated she was not cutting funds.
“We are not making cuts to local authorities,” she said. “What we have done is give them more revenue raising powers so that decisions can be taken locally.
“It’s really important that local councillors are responsible for the decisions they make.”
The statement followed Labour analysis finding councils in the North of England had been hit disproportionately hard by austerity measures since 2010.
The study found the spending power of local authorities in the North was on course to fall by more than one-quarter between 2010/11 and 2019/20, while, councils in the South have around 20 per cent less to spend.
Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter