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700 jobs to go as Bradford Council forced to cut £89 million
The leader of Bradford Council last night revealed it will be forced to slash £89 million from its budget, axe almost 700 jobs and strip front-line services to their core amid significant Government funding cuts over the next two financial years.
Councillor David Green admitted his controlling Labour group’s draft budget proposal for 2014-2016 was “unpleasant reading for everybody” as he announced a series of cost-cutting measures, including the closure of seven children’s centres, a dramatic reduction in youth services, the withdrawal of adult social care day centres and the end of its mobile library service.
The Council’s workforce, which has already shrunk by 1,500 over the past three years, would see a further 696 posts cut across all departments over the two-year period to save £21 million.
And it is also proposed to impose a 1.6 per cent rise in Council Tax in each of the next two years – meaning householders in band D properties across the city will have to pay an extra £36 a year.
Coun Green said many services across the authority were already at their “bare bones” and the cuts would have an impact on services that people across the city rely on.
But he blamed Government funding cuts for forcing its hand, saying it was “impossible” to make the cuts needed without it having an impact on front-line services.
“Over the last three years we have already taken £100 million out of our budget as a result of Government cuts,” he said.
“We saved £20 million by reducing management and back office costs to protect front-line services, and we have not quite reached the end of that process.
“But we have reached the position where the amount you can take out of non-front-line services is receding, while the amount of cuts being enforced by central Government is not.
“We are in a situation where we have to make £115 million of further cuts over the next three years, with about £90 million over the next two years.
“That means it is inevitable that Bradford has got to look at its service delivery over that period as well as making efficiencies at management level.”
Among a number of hard decisions, he said, was a plan to save £2.4 million over two years by shutting seven Phase Three children’s centres in areas where “the need is lower than elsewhere in the district”.
Early learning provision would move from four locations to two, one each in Bradford and Shipley, with Coun Green blaming a £10.4 million loss in grants to support early years services since 2010.
He admitted a £3 million cut to the Council’s youth services – a 79 per cent reduction to its budget over the next two years – would “strip it to its very core”.
Instead of the current system where there is one youth worker in every ward, there would only be two in each Parliamentary constituency.
Deputy Council leader Coun Imran Hussain said it was a “harsh reality” that front-line services would be affected, adding: “We don’t present this budget with a light heart.
“It is something people will have to live with because there is no other option.
“Everything that’s humanly possible has been done to make sure there is as little impact on front-line services as possible, but with the cuts we have to make it is physically impossible.
“This is because of Government cuts and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Coun Green said the cuts facing Bradford meant it had lost £149 funding per head over the past two years compared to an average of £20.29 per head in the ten least deprived authorities across the country.
“The main message is there’s no one in this administration or this Council that would want to be in this situation. It’s been forced upon us because of the draconian cuts enforced by the Government.
“They’ve been enforced in a way that’s palpably unfair to Bradford and other northern cities.
“Since 2010 we’ve made dramatic reductions in management and administration, but this is something that can only be done once.
“We did that first, which was the right thing to do, but we are now in the situation where we are at the bare bones.”
The Council’s Conservative group yesterday criticised Labour’s plan to increase Council Tax, announcing its own ‘budget headlines’.
Coun Simon Cooke, Conservative group deputy leader and budget lead, said: “We know there are big financial challenges for the Council, but that doesn’t mean we should put the Council Tax bills up for Bradford residents while we carry on paying the wages of union bosses and top- heavy bureaucracy.
“Our budget headlines focus on reducing this bureaucracy, for example looking to share back office services like payroll, HR and property management with other Councils or public authorities.
“Northamptonshire has saved more than £12 million per annum through this route and Cambridgeshire a similar amount.
“We’re also proposing to end some of Labour’s false savings – the pool closures and the daft permit scheme for household waste sites – and to redirect funding to key priorities like underperforming schools and extending business support initiatives across the city.”
Labour’s budget proposal were also greeted with dismay by union Unison.
Regional organiser Rob Demaine said: “These job losses will damage, and in some cases, destroy essential services. This is especially true for the very high number of young people in the district desperately seeking a viable future, and for the elderly who are already terrified by massive hikes in power bills as the winter rolls in.
“And every single private business will suffer the knock-on effects of millions of pounds being drained from the local economy by this Government.
“The prospects of any sort of economic recovery in Bradford are being strangled at birth by a political ideology which is protecting the politicians’ own southern heartlands and leaving our district, and the north as a whole, to plunge further into hopeless economic decline.”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrats group, said: “Labour are making different political choices than me. They are cutting services to more than 2,000 vulnerable people, are borrowing money for swimming pools, are spending £1m on free events and £30m on doing up Council offices.
“What’s going on is this – yes there are clearly reductions going on in the Council’s budget as the Government redirects funds elsewhere. Some of the choices where cuts are being made are not the political choices that the Liberal Democrats would be making.”
The draft budget proposals will be discussed by the Council’s executive next Tuesday as a detailed public consultation process continues.
The budget will be finally set at a special meeting of the full Council on February 20 next year.
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