Tax rises while millions are cut as austerity hits Warwickshire County Council finances at Shire Hall

Shire Hall
Shire Hall

Hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds will be cut from services for people in Warwickshire after the ‘toughest budget in the county’s history’.

Councillors have announced significant reductions in spending on children’s centres, the fire service and some programmes for the vulnerable. They also set the county council’s share of council tax, which will rise by 1.99 per cent.

Councillors say they were forced into making the cuts by central government.

Council leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: “As everyone is aware, the public sector has had to find an unprecedented level of savings and will continue to do so.”

The authority will lose 600 staff, which could include up to 39 full time and 36 part-time firefighters.

And redundancies are also likely for programmes and services which receive funding from the council.

These include children’s centres, which will start feeling the effect of a previously agreed 25 per cent cut in the summer.

Also affected is the Supporting People programme, which supports some of the most vulnerable people in the county and is facing £4 million cut to its funding – nearly halving its current budget.

The compromise budget, put forward by the authority’s minority Conservative administration, included major concessions agreed with the Liberal Democrat group and proposals from the Labour group and was approved by a vote of 37 votes to 24 at Shire Hall in Warwick last Thursday.

Deputy Tory group leader Cllr Alan Cockburn has described the budget as the “most difficult” in the council’s 125-year history.

He added that the budget “protects Warwickshire’s most vulnerable people in a fair and balanced way for hard-working taxpayers.”

Other cost saving measures include a £12.9 million cut to the transport budget, which includes road repairs and special needs transport, over three years from 2015.

Parking charges will be introduced for county council staff using the Barrack Street, Cape Road and Saltisford car parks in Warwick, which is expected to save £240,000 over four years while a reduction in the number of council buildings and their associated running costs from 2015 to 2018 is expected to save around £3 million.

On-street parking charges are set to rise and parking enforcement is due to be privatised in a move which is expected to save about £1.4 million over three years from 2015.

From 2017, the budget for the overall public transport subsidy and re-tender services will be cut by £500,000.

The budget included savings of £505,000 from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service in the next financial year through modernising and collaboration with other fire and rescue services, and saving £17.9 million over four years from adult social care.

All parties on the county council agreed that £92 million needed to be cut.


Artisan bread on the menu as councillors make cuts

Councillors dined on a taxpayer-funded three-course meal during their deliberations on how to cut £92 million from their budget.

They were given a choice of two starters – roasted winter vegetable salad with walnuts and blue cheese dressing, or butternut squash soup with chillies and a creme fraiche garnish, served with artisan bread.

There were three options for the main course: chicken breast with a mushroom and tarragon sauce, roast cod with a herb crust served with a lemon butter sauce, or mushroom souffle with a wholegrain mustard and garlic sauce. It was rounded off with a sticky toffee pudding with spiced apples and custard, or a chilled pomegranate fruit salad and cream, or a cheese platter.

Some 55 out of 61 councillors tucked in. Green party members Keith Kondakor and Jonathan Chilvers ate sandwiches instead.

A Warwickshire County Council spokesman said: “Lunch served to elected members is costed to their allowance at £8.25. A 2014-15 budget proposal was agreed to reduce total cost of members expenses, including catering, by £50,000.”