GOVERNMENT cuts could force the closure of libraries, theatres and leisure facilities, according to a new report.
The Local Government Association (LGA) claim that if current plans remain in place, a shortfall of £16.5billion in North East local authority funding will appear by the end of the decade.
Rising social care and waste costs could mean that by 2020, money available for services like libraries, leisure centres and theatres could be reduced by as much as 90 per cent in real terms.
Such a situation would place some of the area’s most valued public facilities at risk, including Durham’s Gala Theatre.
Sir Merrick Cockell, LGA Chairman, said: “By the end of the decade, councils may be forced to wind down some of the most popular services they provide unless urgent action is taken to address the crisis in adult social care funding.”
Simon Henig, Labour Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We need some honesty from the Government. We’re already reducing services and that will accelerate unless these issues are grasped.”
Local authorities are hoping the LGA’s report will spark a fightback by warning the public of what the cuts could lead to.
Mr Henig added: “If public expectations are the same and our money’s being cut, something’s got to give somewhere.
“This needs to be a national debate.”
However, councils have to do their bit to help cut the deficit, according to Conservative Local Government Minister Bob Neill.
He said: “The old system of Government ‘begging bowl’ handouts is over.
“Our fair finance reforms will give all councils the chance to gain and stand tall, potentially delivering an extra £10billion boost to the wider economy, helping support vital jobs while still protecting frontline services and vulnerable communities.”