LEADING councillors yesterday painted a grim picture of a city’s financial future in the face of Government cuts, and accused communities secretary Eric Pickles of “undermining his own rhetoric” over growth.
Detailing how she planned to meet Westminster’s demand for a £50m reduction in Sheffield Council’s budget next year, leader Julie Dore revealed a catalogue of services to be scrapped or drastically scaled back.
Confirming the city’s Don Valley Stadium, where Olympic champion Jessica Ennis trains, was under threat of closure and demolition, senior councillors also revealed major cuts across the board.
Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council’s finance spokesman said the council had already been forced to cut £140m and it was hoped that another £20m could be found through “more efficent, smarter ways of working”.
But he stressed that £30m then had to be found from services, with cash-hungry adult social care, which includes care services for the elderly, facing a cut of five per cent - or £10.5m.
Coun Lodge also revealed 14 libraries were at risk as the library budget shrinks from £6.4m to £4.8m a year, and appealed for “expressions of interest” from volunteers willing to run them.
He also said youth services would be cut back, with the hope that the voluntary sector would step in, but at the same time he announced support for voluntary work organisations would be reduced by £200,000.
The arts will also suffer, with Sheffield Theatres, Museums Sheffield, the city’s highly-regarded independent Showroom Cinema and the Site Gallery all suffering a 20 per cent reduction in council grants.
Public toilets will close to save money, while the cost of resident parking permits will rise, charges for pest control will be reintroduced and allotment rents will go up by 60 per cent.
Coun Lodge said council tax would not increase, and funding would be protected for events such as the World Snooker Chamionships and the city’s DocFest documentary festival, because they bring cash in.
H said it is expected that around 600 jobs will be lost in the council in the next financial year.
After the cuts were unveiled, Coun Dore unleashed a stinging attack on Mr Pickles and the coalition Government’s strategy.
She said: “Make no mistake, the Government is using these cuts to redistribute money away from northern towns and cities which face the greatest challenges.
“By 2015 this will cost Sheffield £200 per resident, five times the amount faced by places like Wokingham, Guildford and Windsor. In the Prime Minister’s Oxfordshire constituency it will be £60.
“Eric Pickles’ cuts undermine the country’s core cities like Sheffield, which he has said will be the powerhouse for growth in this country. These cuts undermine his own rhetoric.
“How can these core cities provide growth when they are facing such huge cuts?
“What I would say to him is that it makes sense for him to listen to us, and it makes sense not to cut as drastically and unfairly, ”
Last night Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis rejected Coun Dore’s criticism and said she should look at his department’s ‘fifty ways to save’ advice and accept the “fair funding deal”.
He added: “Every bit of the public sector needs to work to help pay off budget deficit inherited from the last administration, including councils, which account for a quarter of all public spending.
“This is a fair council settlement – fair to north and south, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and metropolitan areas.
“Sheffield’s spending power per household is £2,220 which is over £400 more than the £1,814 per household in Wokingham.
“If councils like Sheffield are ready to stand up for their community by promoting local growth they will be rewarded with more income.
“Instead of attacking the Government, the council must do three things to get their house in order - put the fair funding deal to work; do every one of the fifty ways to save; and accept our council tax freeze deal.”