Notts County Council – Figures that don’t add up?

Just days after LFF highlighted the 600 jobs losses in Leicestershire, further questions are being raised about the way Nottinghamshire saves £33 million.

Just days after Left Foot Forward highlighted the 600 jobs to be lost at Leicestershire County Council, further questions are being raised about the way neighbouring, Conservative run Nottinghamshire County Council is addressing what they say is a need to save £33 million.

In November, Left Foot Forward reported on the publication of Nottinghamshire’s draft budget, summarised by the Nottingham Evening Post:

“The Conservatives are proposing to save millions of pounds by increasing charges for home care; cutting, or increasing the cost of, transport for older people, particularly those who use day centres; closing day centres and charging for services; and increasing the costs of meals on wheels.”

The Conservative manifesto for the 2009 elections in Nottinghamshire however said:

“Conservatives will ensure residential homes remain open and available for those who need them, and respect and support older people who wish to remain in their own homes.

“We will support lonely and vulnerable older people who want to retain their independence but be within easy reach of their friends and family.”

Serious questions are now being raised over weather Nottinghamshire County Council’s ideological obsession with freezing council tax is unnecessarily hurting the most vulnerable across the county.

In an article for the Evening Post, Ravi Subramanian, Unison’s Head of Local Government in the East Midlands, has identified a number of measures to raise at least £24 million of the £33 million the council says it needs to cut. The measures include:

Increasing Council tax by 3 per cent in the county – this would raise £9 million, the equivalent of an extra 46p a week for a Band A property or £1.37 for a Band H property. Current budget proposals could see some of the most vulnerable paying up to an extra £10 a week to cover the costs of services for the elderly.

• The County Council have reported an under spend in the last financial year of £10.4 million, with at least half of this being put into reserves rather than protecting services. This as the council complains that they are short of funds, making service cuts and job losses inevitable.

• Current reserves at the council total £150 million, £24 million of which is unallocated. Unison are calling for just £2 million of this to be used to protect vital services during the tough economic times.

£1.9 million could be saved by implementing proper management measures. Last year, the authority spent £19 million on agency staff – the highest of any council across the East Midlands.

• Conservative leaders in Nottinghamshire based their figures on no new revenue from new build housing. Whilst the market has slowed, it has not stopped altogether. As such, Unison suggest that the albeit slow growth in housing across the county would equate to an extra £1.5 million in council tax receipts.

£130,000 could be saved by scrapping the extra cabinet post created after the Conservatives won control of County Hall in Nottinghamshire and abandoning plans to appoint a new communications post.

In defending her draft budget, council leader Kay Cutts sought to blame the Government. She said:

“We are meeting the challenges created by Gordon Brown’s failed economic policies and 28 years of his Labour colleagues here shying away from making difficult but necessary decisions.”

As Mr Subramanian says, Ms Cutts and her Conservative administration, along with her colleagues in Leicestershire and other councils will have to understand that governing, even at a local level, is about taking responsibility for your actions, not blaming everyone else for your woes, woes which in this case are self inflicted. He concluded:

“The council has the chance to reverse the majority of the proposed cuts. On 25 February they will either seize this opportunity, or they will show their cuts are not about money, but about a Tory political agenda to slash services in pursuit of David Cameron’s desire for a ‘small state’.”

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