People in Luton are facing “far worse” spending cuts if a government plan to slash funding even more goes ahead.
Luton Borough Council was expecting a ten per cent funding cut, but is now preparing for 15 per cent cut, which would mean a £115m budget reduction by 2015-16.
Councillor Robin Harris, portfolio holder for finance, is urging residents to write to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Eric Pickles, and tell him how further cuts will affect them.
Speaking ahead of a discussion about the government proposals at Monday’s executive committee meeting, Councillor Harris said: “The goalposts keep moving. These are large, unexpected cuts over and above those described in the spending review.”
Luton will be affected more than other areas, he says, as 75 per cent of its money comes from the revenue support grant, which is being reduced by 29.38 per cent in Luton, and the New Homes Bonus funding, which is being cut by a third.
The authority has “considerably lower” council tax than in other areas, as 84 per cent of its dwellings are in tax bands A, B, and C, which makes the council grant-dependent.
Councillor Harris said: “The government knows its policy is hitting poorer areas like Luton harder. The proposed grant reduction as set out by the government is 9.18 per cent of its net budget, compared to 3.6 per cent for Central Beds and 2.99 per cent for Bucks. We can’t physically do much more to bring in business rates, we don’t have large areas of land ready to build on. It’s very hard to go round and tell people that we are all in this together when we are quite obviously not.”
The council’s budget was expected to be £132m in 2015/16, but this will now be reduced by a further £10m, yet statutory services alone will cost £134m.
Councillor Harris said: “It’s absolutely one hell of a challenge. A lot of people are very upset over things which have had to go and quite rightly, but people need to realise the problem we have got as our funding is being cut substantially.”
He said: “We are still very deeply in recession. We are absolutely stuck. People in Luton are going to feel nothing like recovery. In terms of council services we are going to find cuts far far worse – we’re not even half way through the cuts. What’s left will be the bare bones of statutory services.”
Government consultations end on October 7.