The Conservative group at Northamptonshire County Council can expect a bumpy ride if it is going to ratify all £66.9 million worth of cuts next April - after opposition members picked holes in the “vacuous” proposals this week.
On Monday the council’s finance chiefs announced plans for yet another stinging round of cuts to public services, which it said was due to a rising demand for its services amid dwindling funds form central Government.
During Tuesday’s cabinet meeting in which the proposals were debated, the Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP groups spoke of having serious concerns for balancing the books in 2017/18 - when the council still needs to find millions to make this year’s budget target.
For UKIP, Councillor Adam Collyer (Daventy West), said the currently vague proposals were “vacuous,” reminding the Conservative group that a year ago the party suggested only £20 million of cuts would be needed to balance the budget in 2017/18.
He said: “Year-on-year the budget is being balanced by raiding resources and one-off windfalls.
“This budget is no better than last year’s.”
And he also criticised the council for putting off plans to become a unitary authority until next year - even though an independent report has suggested the council could save up to £29 million every year by doing so.
The authority still needs to cut another £12 million from adult social services before the close of this financial year in March - but In 2017/18 the authority is proposing another £35 million of the cuts to come out of the adult care budget.
For the Liberal Democrats Councillor Jill Hope (Lib Dem, Sixfields), attacked the Conservative’s plans to strip £8.5 million from Olympus Care, the arms length management company which runs care facilities in the county.
She said that expecting privately-run day and care centres to look after county council subsidised patients was unfair - as she claimed some private centres would simply lose money by doing so.
She said: “A number of my customers run care homes. They are saying they will no longer be able to accept placed in their homes by the council.
“The council is paying £405 (per week) but the cost of looking after a person is £600, they can’t keep subsidising for it and frankly it isn’t fair.”
Councillor Bob Scott (Lab, Lloyds) was concerned the proposed £10 million of planned cuts in children’s services would mean the closure of nurseries and children’s centres.
He asked: “Will we see nurseries and children’s centres close because of the lack of service that can be provided with the funding?”
The budget proposals are as yet at an early draft stage, though it is anticipated the county council will know how much funding it will receive from central Government in 2017/18 when the Local Government Finance Settlement is released later this week.