Knowsley Council faces £36m budget black hole
KNOWSLEY Council chiefs are facing a £36 million budget black hole and will axe 340 jobs over the next three years.
Savage government cuts to local council budgets could also see the borough’s ‘spending power’ per household cut by more than £182 by the 2014/15 financial year – nearly £100 more than the national average.
A crunch meeting was set to be held today in which cabinet members had to discuss the best way for the council to battle through its cash problems in the coming years.
Even before looking at this year’s budget, £31m of savings had to be made and 845 jobs cut – a 19% reduction in the workforce.
Labour council leader Ron Round said the latest proposals would see about 340 jobs lost over the next three years, but most would not be cut until 2014 at the earliest.
He added: “These cuts have been forced on us by the national government and, even after setting this budget, we will still need to find more savings in future years.
“Despite the huge challenges we face, we are looking to the future and we have done an excellent job of balancing the need to invest in services to improve our borough against the need to make tough decisions and prioritise the things which are really important to our residents.”
Finance bosses said they had been able to marginally reduce the estimated budget shortfall through planned savings across all departments.
A review of senior management arrangements is also expected to save about £2m, on top of the £6m already achieved in 2011 and 2012.
Cabinet members were expected to approve hikes in charges for leisure facilities, including swimming and commercial and clinical waste collections, but said they also planned investment in key areas including schools and helping local businesses.
Cllr Norman Keats, cabinet member for finance, said: “Despite being one of the most deprived areas in the country, we are in the top three hardest hit councils in terms of funding cuts.
“We have lost £229 per person over the last two years, compared to an average cut across England of just £91.
“In that context, we have done our utmost to protect our most essential services. Where service reductions are being proposed, they are being made with care and with a view to protecting our residents as far as possible.
“However, with this level of unprecedented national funding cuts, there is no escaping the fact that we will have to reduce some services in some areas.”
The plans were expected to be outlined in more detail today and rubber-stamped at a full council meeting on March 6.