Sunderland councillors sign-off budget after ‘savage onslaught’ of £36million cuts

Council leader Paul Watson (left) and Cabinet Secretary Mel Speding
Council leader Paul Watson (left) and Cabinet Secretary Mel Speding
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COUNCILLORS have unanimously agreed Sunderland’s budget for the coming financial year – after shaving another £36million from the city council’s spending power.

At a meeting of the full council yesterday, members of all political groups voted in favour of the council’s revenue budget for 2015/2016.

They also rubber-stamped the city’s council tax freeze for a fifth year in a row.

The decision comes after the authority has seen £170million-worth of spending cuts in the last five years, and cuts will affect its ongoing costs in providing services, including education, child protection, social care and bin collections.

Members of the ruling Labour cabinet outlined the individual challenges faced by their individual portfolio areas.

One of the biggest savings will hit Coun Graeme Miller’s portfolio of health, housing and adult services with a massive £16.5million slashed from this area.

He said the cuts will be mitigated by making arrangements with NHS partners in reducing emergency admissions to hospital, while developing alternatives to residential care.

“It’s a staggering amount,” Coun Miller said.

“Despite these cuts we will continue to ensure residents received the appropriate level of care they require.

“It is clear that the financial position moving forward is exceptionally challenging.”

Other areas that will be hard hit include city services, which will have to slash £3.6million, children and learning with £3.3million in savings and £2.7million being saved from public health, wellness and culture.

Council leader Paul Watson called the situation a “savage onslaught” by the Government and said that other resources must be called upon when the council is no longer able to deliver services itself.

“Rather than directly delivering services, we need to help and enable others to do so – be that communities themselves, other organisations or businesses,” he said.

Tory opposition leader Lee Martin said none of the mainstream parties is going into the General Election promising to increase local government funding and that the return of funding levels can not be expected to be restored to those between 2000 and 2010.

“But,” he said, “there has to be a realisation and an acceptance that we are getting a lot of other funding for things like job creation.

“It doesn’t mean that money isn’t going to the council.”