The books are balanced to meet budget demands – but the costs will be felt for many years to come, say Council leaders.
Last autumn Sheffield City Council outlined its financial position highlighting deepening budget cuts for the next five years. Since then the Council has been consulting with Sheffield people on its budget proposals for 2014/15 to meet the unprecedented financial challenge facing the Council, including plans to freeze Council Tax.
Sheffield has been hit with some of the hardest cuts nationally – losing half of its Government funding by 2015, with over £180m taken from the budget so far.
This year the Council has had to find a further £58m – pushing the total government cuts to Sheffield up to £238 million.
The Council is doing its best to protect people but the scale of the cuts mean that not everyone can be protected.
Councillor Ben Curran, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet member for Finance and Resources said:
“The Government is continuing with their unfair policy of targeting northern cities like Sheffield. Whilst forcing Sheffield to cut another £54 million, Wokingham is getting increases.
At the end of the day having £234 million taken from Sheffield is going to take its toll.
We must be clear – any organisation losing 50 per cent of its funding can’t afford to maintain the status quo. The council is no different.
We are doing our best to minimise the impact of the cuts. But we can’t protect everyone with the massive level of cuts imposed by the government.
We believe this budget delivers the best possible deal for the people of Sheffield in the circumstances we face. We will continue to do our best for the city with the dreadful hand we have been dealt.”
Over the last six months Sheffield City Council has engaged in raft of consultation events, including Budget Conversation events at the Town Hall, working with key partners, voluntary and community groups and the general public on how to lessen the impact. They were also designed to provide these groups and individuals – who play such a vital role in the city – with a better understanding of the council’s current financial position and gave them the opportunity to shape its approach.
This year’s cuts will see changes to the library service; changes to resident care settings; reviewing of home care services; restructuring of staff across services; sharing services where appropriate across portfolios; delivering value for money on external contracts; working with the voluntary sector where possible; increasing charges for certain services, reviewing other services to make them affordable, delivering more for less and seeking alternative funding where possible.
As part of the budget process, the Council is estimating that there could be 600 posts affected during 2014/15, although the actual number is likely to be less due to voluntary severance or voluntary early retirement as well as any vacancies that have not been filled.
This year’s budget proposals will be put forward to Cabinet next week (Wednesday, 19 February) and ultimately Full Council for final sign off in March 2014.