20th Aug, 2019

Residents to pay 'more for less' under county council's 'austerity budget'

Laura Kearns 12th Feb, 2019

CONCERNS have been raised a rise in council tax will see residents paying ‘more for less’.

Warwickshire County Council’s budget will see more than £900,000 slashed from drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and £400,000 from the budget which includes homeless hostels.

Council tax is also set to rise by five per cent – £65 per year for an average Band D property – with two per cent of the figure going towards the Adult Social Care precept.

It is the second year running the Conservative-led authority has set an inflation-busting five per cent rise having been forced to make savings of some £100million since 2010.

But the council is also set to invest £6million in children’s social care and the same amount on education for pupils with special educational needs.

The council also agreed while cuts would be made to the fire service, they would not stretch as far as once feared. Instead of the proposed £1.5million reduction in spending on Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service this year, the figure will be cut to around £700,000.

The budget was passed 33 to 19.

Leamington Green Party councillor Jonathan Chilvers said there were still issues with where the money will go.

He told the Observer: “It is like a half done patchwork quilt – there’s good bits but big holes. I am delighted to see that our excellent youth justice service will not suffer further cuts. But there’s still a massive £15million of cuts glossed over, mostly to important support services like health visitors, rehabilitation and to young carers.

“On top of that they’ve irresponsibly ignored the growing risks of flooding to our houses caused by climate change and failed to allocate a definite budget to build cycling and walking routes.”

His concerns have been echoed by Leamington Labour councillor Helen Adkins who said the budget would be a huge blow to services.

She said: “This is an austerity budget, but wasn’t austerity supposed to be over? And there are still more massive cuts coming which will have a devastating impact on the very important services offered by the council.

“One area of funding of which I am deeply worried about is special educational needs funding. This has not been guaranteed. The people of Warwickshire deserve better, but are again paying more for less.”

But council leader Izzi Seccombe said the budget would help put the authority in a ‘strong position’.

She said: “In 2017, we identified a requirement for savings of £67million over the period. We have achieved 90 per cent to date and continue to deliver high quality services for the people and communities of Warwickshire.

“The Conservative administration has carefully managed the financial position of the county at a time when other councils have found themselves in financial trouble. We continue to deliver good services with high satisfaction ratings. This puts the county council into a strong position to meet the challenges of the next five years.”

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