Sunderland council will be forced to cut vital services due to £40m funding gap

BUDGET BLUES: Sunderland City Councillors Paul Watson, left, and Mel Speding have warned of 'bleak prospects' as a result of spending cuts.
BUDGET BLUES: Sunderland City Councillors Paul Watson, left, and Mel Speding have warned of 'bleak prospects' as a result of spending cuts.
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SUNDERLAND City Council will no longer be able to carry out its statutory services in the face of sustained cuts, council chiefs warned as they approved provisional budget proposals “with a heavy heart”.

Civic bosses face a funding gap of £39.8million during the next financial year, on top of £170million it has already had to slash from budgets in the last five years.

Exactly where savings will be made is subject to the budget consultation, the outcome of which will be submitted to cabinet next month.

However, cabinet secretary Mel Speding said the people of Sunderland faced “bleak prospects” as the council faces the task of setting a balanced budget amid reductions in Government funding.

“Government has put us in a heinous position,” he told this week’s cabinet meeting.

“The grant reduction means that the continued protection of front-line services is no longer possible.

“Cuts to front-line services will result in radical changes to the way the council delivers services, including health, education and to the business community.

“It is with a heavy heart I ask you to agree the report.”

Council leader Paul Watson said: “What we feel most aggrieved about is the targeting of our communities, the most vulnerable people, the disabled people and the people who have the least ability to hit back.

“These are people’s lives and this is a life or death position people find themselves in.

“There will come a point where we will not be able to carry out our statutory services.”

Deputy council leader Henry Trueman said: “It’s very worrying when protecting front-line services is no longer possible.

“It worries me to death these cuts, but we have to continue to do our best.”