'Chronic underfunding' blamed as Sunderland braced for £56m of council cuts

Council chiefs in Sunderland have warned there will be "cuts to services" as they look to find nearly £57m of savings over the next four years.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 4:44 pm

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet this week was provided with an update on the budget position for 2022-23 to 2025-26 as it prepares spending plans for the coming years.

Forecasts are that the council has a funding gap of nearly £26m for spending on day-to-day services in 2022-2023 and a total gap of £56.7m over the next four years.

City council cabinet secretary, Labour councillor Paul Stewart, warned at the meeting they face an uncertain position, impacted by national funding issues, and savings will have to be made to balance the budget.

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Councillor Paul Stewart blamed "chronic underfunding" for upcoming Sunderland City Council cuts.

He said: “The scale of this gap lays bare the chronic underfunding of local authorities after over a decade of cuts by this Government.

“The combined impact of other known changes in Government funding and significant unavoidable cost pressures, primarily linked to social care, and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, means the council will need to deliver further significant ongoing savings in the next year and beyond.

“And when I say savings, in many cases this will mean cuts to services that we deliver, but we have a statutory duty to balance the books each year.”

He added savings proposed to address the 2022-23 gap are being developed, which will be considered later in the budget planning process, but reserves will likely be required in the short term.

Sunderland Civic Centre.

Cllr Stewart added: “There remains significant uncertainty in the funding system at this stage for next year and beyond.

“It is recognised, given the size of the gap, the uncertainty with regards to the pandemic recovery and Government funding, that earmarked reserves will be required to support the position in the short term.”

It is also currently anticipated the Government will assume on councils increasing council tax to help meet the cost of services including social care, with a final decision to be made later in the budget process.

Other councillors at the meeting also hit out at the Government for the lack of long-term funding plans, such as in relation to adult social care.

Consultation with residents and businesses will begin later this month about Sunderland City Council’s 2022-23 budget.