SERVICES in South Derbyshire are set to be hit by the biggest cuts in spending ever to have been executed by the county council.
From job losses to the potential closure of children’s centres and the sharing of services, it seems that no area will be left unscathed by the swingeing cuts which were announced by Derbyshire County Council earlier this week.
With a seemingly heavy heart, council leader Anne Western said the authority had been forced into ‘an impossible situation’ following a reduction in central government funding of almost a third, which had led to the council overhauling spending for the next few years.
In plans revealed on Tuesday, she said 1,600 jobs would be lost within the authority – with back office staff and management hit the hardest – and a raft of other changes would be made to services.
Councillor Western said: “These are tough times. We have no choice but to deal with these cuts. We know they will be difficult for people to accept and that they will have a big impact on people who receive the services and people who work for the county council. We need to minimise the impact as much as we can.”
She confirmed that ‘important local services’ would be affected by the cuts, and said plans were in place to make save money in areas of the council where ‘opportunities had been missed’ in past cost-cutting drives.
It has not yet been revealed exactly which jobs will be cut in the process of the spending cut, which amount to £47.2 million in the next financial year, but the loss will amount to roughly 10 per cent of the authority’s workforce, not including schools.
The amount adds to the 1,200 jobs already axed within the authority since 2010.
Unison, the biggest public sector union in the country, which represents staff working for the county council, spoke out against the cuts, but said the union did not believe the change was down to the council.
Jeanette Lloyd, branch secretary for Derbyshire, said: “It’s not just about the impact these job cuts will have on our members, but the impact of the loss of services. We fear it’s going to be not only our members who are affected, but the most vulnerable people in society. It’s wrong.
“Once these jobs and services have disappeared, they will never be clawed back. This is completely eating away at public services.”
Budget-slashing measures will affect services across the board. It has already been confirmed that a consultation will take place over the closure of some children’s centres – which could hit families in Newhall and Woodville – and some libraries which are close to other facilities could be shut down. Woodville’s could easily be hit, as the library in Swadlincote is just a mile away. Adult services have been highlighted as an area which will bear the brunt of the cuts. Increased charges could be introduced for care home residents, and day services will be affected. Some health and social care services will be shared with other bodies.
More street lights could be turned off overnight, and the amount of money spent on painting yellow lines and maintaining speed bumps will be cut.
The cost-cutting moves have also been criticised by the council’s Conservative group. Members of the opposition party suggested it was irresponsible for the leading group to announce job losses for this amount of people while also considering introducing the living wage.
Conservative group leader Andrew Lewer panned the approach the Labour group had taken to finances since coming into power, saying that had exacerbated the budget issue.
He said: “It is reprehensible that Labour’s uncontrolled spending has allowed a situation to arise in the first four months of their administration where an additional £10 million needs to be found.
“It’s ironic that one of Councillor Western’s outrageous criticisms of our administration was that we did not do any ‘modernisation’, when in fact we did more in four years than they did in 28.”