PROSPECTS for council services in Sheffield got even grimmer this week as town hall leaders faced up to at least three more years of cuts in the wake of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
Already the authority has warned it is working on a radical reshaping of its operations as it finalises its budget for next year - and there is no sign of any relief in the years ahead as the council digests the Chancellor’s latest financial statements.
Local Labour leader Julie Dore said: “Sheffield and councils in the north of England have already taken heavy cuts over the past few years and are being hit again next year, which is increasingly damaging the services we can provide to the people of Sheffield. We simply cannot take continuous cuts for years down the line as a result of this Government’s economic mismanagement.”
Sheffield will only be able to confirm next year’s budget when it receives details of its Government grants later this month.
All departments have been asked to make big savings. Because some services, especially in education and social services are protected by law, the burden will be borne heavily by the likes of parks, sport and the arts. Cuts of £3.5m to children’s centres were announced this week.
Increasingly, the emphasis is on deciding which services can still be afforded, and which can hopefully be transferred to other agencies, including voluntary groups.
Local Lib Dem leader Shaffaq Mohammed took heart from the Coalition Government’s £600 tax break for thousands of low earners by a further rise in the income tax threshold, the scrapping of a proposed 3p rise in fuel duty and no extra council cuts next year.
He said: “Obviously, the Chancellor’s statement also set some tough choices but we did not enter Government to make easy decisions. Repairing the country’s broken economy is far more important than party political games.”
Six hundred jobs are due to go at Sheffield town hall next year as the council works on the basis of having to save £50m. It has shed 1,400 jobs over the past two years.