Bradford Council leader warns of stark and difficult choices as public asked for ideas on budget cuts (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford Council leader warns of stark and difficult choices as public asked for ideas on budget cuts
6:00am Thursday 12th September 2013 in News
The Leader of Bradford Council, Coun David Green, has warned that the district faced “stark and difficult” choices affecting the scope of local services as the authority tries to find £88 million savings within two years.
Coun Green has said no services will be safe under cuts and is now urging residents to come forward with their own ideas about where money should be saved under the Have Your Say public consultation.
The running of parks, allotments, and leisure facilities are just some of the jobs which could possibly be handed over to volunteers as the Council makes millions of pounds of cuts, Coun Green has warned.
The Council is asking the public to say where they think £38 million of cuts should be made to its budget next year and £50 million the year after as part of the large-scale consultation.
One of the cost-saving ideas being put forward for discussion is handing more Council services over to volunteers.
Coun Green refused to be drawn on where he personally thought the cuts should be made, saying he didn’t want to pre-judge the public consultation.
But he did say: “We have stark and difficult choices to make.
“I can’t say anything is safe when you are taking 25 per cent out of the budget in three years.
“People need to recognise the reality of the situation and take part in this debate.
“Over the next three to five years, the authority will have to change and many things people expect their local authority to provide will no longer be there. We will only be able to provide statutory duties.
“We are at the stage now where further cuts to frontline services are inevitable however unpalatable that may be. To pretend otherwise would be to mislead. The scale of the task ahead should not be underestimated.”
He said in other areas of the country, leisure facilities had been handed over to their communities to run.
He said: “There may be Friends of Park groups who could take a greater role in the running of their parks. I do stress it’s a maybe, because that’s a big project.”
Coun Green said there could be more hand-overs of libraries to communities, or allotment associations could take a greater role in the running of the Council’s allotment sites.
But he said there were some areas - like social services - which would never be suitable for this kind of approach.
And he said some communities would be more able than others to take on this kind of role.
Other suggested ways of saving money include cutting services completely, sharing more services with neighbouring local authorities, and outsourcing more Council work to private companies.
He said sharing services with other authorities didn’t always mean costs would be cut, especially in areas where Bradford was running more efficiently than other councils.
But the leader of the opposition Coun Glen Miller (Con) rubbished claims that services would have to go, saying the Council needed to “think more imaginatively”.
And he said ideas like outsourcing more work and sharing more services with neighbours had been lifted from the Conservatives’ budget of two years ago, when they had even suggested having a shared chief executive.
Coun Miller said by outsourcing work like gardening and building maintenance to private firms, the authority could save between £2 million and £5 million a year.
And he said the Council’s £500,000 union subsidy should also be axed.
Coun Miller said he had asked senior officers to provide him with a list of services the Government said they had to provide and those which were optional.
He said: “In the budgets, 90 per cent of the work is done by officers. I think there is empire-building, with these officers seeking to continue to expand their empires.”
To take part in the consultation, visit www.bradford.gov.uk/budget. Copies are also available at libraries or Council contact points.
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