No going back on £50m cuts package

News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.
News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

SHEFFIELD holds its annual budget meeting tomorrow (Friday) with the prospect of a £50m package of cuts being voted through, despite widespread opposition on some issues.

There is no sign of council money being found that would halt the proposed closures of Don Valley Stadium and Stocksbridge Leisure Centre.

Similarly, fiercely-opposed cuts in the funding of early years and children’s services and to community libraries are likely to be confirmed by the ruling Labour group.

But the raft of spending reductions to be presented at the Town Hall - described as the deepest ever cuts the authority has ever had to make - touches many others aspects of city life.

Motorists can expect to pay to park in the city centre later into the evening and on Sundays, and to pay 50p an hour instead of 40p to park on streets outside the city centre.

Residents’ parking permits are set to go up from £20 to £36, for businesses from £40 to £72.

Cuts to the library budget threaten up to 14 of the 27 community libraries, although the exact position will not be known until individuals and organisations have responded to an invitation to potentially take them over. The deadline is April 8.

Less money for cultural activities and entertainment will hit Sheffield Theatres, Museums Sheffield and The Showroom and organisers of Tramlines, Off The Shelf, Cliffhanger, the Children’s festival and Fright Night.

Allotment rents are going up by 60% and even householders with a rat problem will be affected. A charge of around £65 is being introduced.

The bulk of the savings - £20m - are earmarked from ‘efficiencies’, which are predicted to result in up to 600 job losses.

Another large chunk, £10.5m, is due to come from the £160m adult social care budget through negotiating savings in fees to private care home operators, removing some discounts and reducing some people’s home support.

Changes are set to be approved by Labour, which has a big majority. In particular, they have come under fire over Stocksbridge Leisure Centre. Don Valley Stadium is not scheduled to close until September, after the staging of the UK School Games, the Transplant Games and some Sheffield Eagles rugby matches.

Then a seamless transfer to Woodbourn Road is being worked on.

Labour puts the blame squarely on severe Government spending cuts.

Cabinet finance member Coun Bryan Lodge said: “We are working to protect services as far as possible but the level of cuts we are now facing means that these cuts are hitting front line services. We are doing many things that we would not want to do but feel that there is no alternative without making even further cuts to other services which I believe would have a greater impact.

“We have aimed as far as possible to protect services for the most vulnerable and the work we do to help get people into jobs. We will do everything we can to protect this city as much as possible in these extremely difficult times.”

But Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “While Labour councillors cut frontline services, they continue to waste millions of pounds on Town Hall makeovers, trade union officials and high-paid consultants. At the same time, the council has turned down money from the Government to keep weekly bin collections and help those struggling with their council tax.

“We know that tough decisions need to made, but by looking at sensible ways of saving money, like reducing council fat cats and ending pet projects, we can protect the services local people really care about, like their local library or leisure centre. We will be arguing that not a single library in Sheffield should close, while this kind of wasteful spending continues.”