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Councillors meet for 11 hours to cut £46m
SAVINGS totalling £46m were scrutinised as councillors came together for meetings spanning 11 hours yesterday.
Five scrutiny committees met back-to-back yesterday at County Hall to go over the council’s financial plan for the next four years.
The extra savings were announced after central Government slashed the council’s share of business rates by 12 per cent.
They will be made on top of £119m of savings the council committed to in 2011.
The largest chunk of the £46m of extra savings will come from the adult social care budget, a total of £18.5m.
Councillors and officers agreed preventative measures to keep older people out of costly care homes was a good way of saving money.
Liberal Democrat spokes-man on adult services, Jenny Hannaby, said: “I think preventative measures is something we should be looking at very hard.
“Falls prevention is one example. I believe we used to have people going around to day centres to talk about preventing falls.”
Council social and community services director John Jackson said the council was already using personal budgets to give people more choice when it comes to their care.
He said: “The reality is if we live long enough we will need care. This is an issue we all have an interest in unless we want an early death.”
He said the council was dealing with “significant” pressures, adding that referrals to the council from hospitals had gone up by 26 per cent and the number of assessments for care had gone up by 36 per cent in the past year.
He said: “The reality is we’re an ageing population. We’ve seen a very significant increase in demand.”
He insisted the savings of £18.5m were “efficiencies” and added that an additional £4.3m of external funding was being introduced to the budget.
Labour’s Gill Sanders added: “Investment in early intervention can save an awful lot of money in the long run.”
The area stewardship fund, a pot of cash divided between councillors for local highways works, is to be cut to save £1.09m.
Council leader Ian Hudspeth said road maintenance schemes would still be carried out where needed and local people would still get a say. He said: “I found the area stewardship fund brilliant, I like it, but there have been some councillors who haven’t been able to spend it in their areas.
“By doing it this way, we are actually re-profiling it so there’s much more emphasis on maintenance.”
An £80,000 saving in the fire service was also discussed.
The council expects to save £30,000 through reduced callouts for retained firefighters and £50,000 through a pensions loophole.
Lib Dem councillor John Goddard said he was pleased the library budget had emerged unscathed.
Last December, the council announced a plan to staff 21 of its libraries with the help of volunteers.
It came after a controversial plan to close some of them, to cut costs as part of the 2011 budget, was scrapped after public uproar.
He said: “I think it’s sensible and good of the administration to keep the library budget as it was and there are no nasty shocks there either.”
In the final meeting of the day, £5.9m of savings under the “strategy and partnerships” heading were discussed.
Savings included the removal of the “change fund”, a pot of money set aside for rainy days if further cuts were suddenly needed.
The big society fund, which was used to pay for small-scale community projects, is also being scrapped. Several hundreds of thousands will be saved from the budget for ICT, used for computer maintainance, and staffing cuts yet to be determined.
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