£90m cuts as North Yorkshire gets 8pc less cash

THE Government has been warned that savage public sector cutbacks are no longer sustainable after a council covering England’s largest county was handed one of the worst funding settlements in the country.

North Yorkshire County Council is faced with making savings of more than £90m after it has been given an even worse than expected grant from Westminster as the public sector funding crisis deepens.

And data obtained by the Yorkshire Post revealed the council is among the worst-funded authorities in the country with a cut of almost eight per cent in the Government’s main grant amid fears of a growing divide between rural and urban areas.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The leader of the Conservative-controlled authority, Coun John Weighell, told the Yorkshire Post the current freezes on council tax bills were only providing a 
short-term fix to help alleviate pressure on financially-stricken households.

He warned that councils are faced with a grim future after Chancellor George Osborne indicated the austerity drive is due to continue for the next five years.

Coun Weighell said: “It is proving to be a problem for rural authorities throughout the country, but it is one that is being particularly keenly felt in North Yorkshire.

“The cuts are transforming the way that local government is having to operate, but it is not sustainable. Local council taxpayers have not had to pay increases in their bills for the last three years, but that cannot continue.

“It is not at a critical stage at the moment, but that situation is not far off.”

Research from the national campaign group SPARSE Rural, which is calling for a fairer funding deal, has revealed the county council has seen a 7.92 per cent reduction in funding for the new financial year. It is the third worst settlement for all rural county councils, beaten only by Oxfordshire with a 9.69 per cent reduction and Cambridgeshire with a 9.16 per cent cut.

The average cut for all authorities nationally is 4.48 per cent, but councils covering more urban areas have fared far better with a reduction of 3.54 per cent. Leeds Council is due to see a 4.92 per cent reduction, while Sheffield is expected to get a 4.19 per cent cut.

But in Bradford the reduction is due to be just 2.86 per cent and in Hull there will be a 2.46 per cent fall. Rural authorities are 
faced with a far greater cut – East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s grant is to be slashed by 5.96 per cent.

North Yorkshire County Council is in the middle of a four-year programme to cut its spending by £69m by 2014/15.

But another council tax freeze and further changes to the Government’s funding are expected to mean the authority will have to cut an extra £24m over the next two years, making a total reduction of £93m.

The care of the elderly and North Yorkshire’s waste strategy are the greatest pressures on budgets, meaning resources will have to be diverted away from other key services such as libraries and highways maintenance.

The chief finance officer, Gary Fielding, said a final settlement figure is not expected from the Government until next month. A full council meeting will be held on February 20 to decide on the new annual budget.

Mr Fielding said: “There is a very real risk that we will not have a final settlement by the time we have to set the budget, or we will not have sufficient time to deal with any changes.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government maintained the council had been given a fair grant, although officials will consider representations from local authorities over the provisional settlements.

A spokeswoman added: “Every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to help pay off the inherited budget deficit, including local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending.”