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Burntwood councillor accuses Conservatives of using spin as Staffordshire County Council unveils “challenging” five-year budget plan

Staffordshire County Council says it is committed to supporting care services and growth, despite unveiling what it admitted was a “challenging” five-year budget plan – but opposition councillors have accused the controlling Conservative group of using spin and warned more cuts are on the way.

The authority said that despite a £12million funding gap in its finances for next year, it was confident the economy could be boosted in order to help balance the books.

Cllr Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “We have already reduced the running costs of the county council by £195million over the past eight years, but each year the funding for care continues to rise and the challenge to fund this and deliver a balanced budget continues to grow too.

Cllr Philip Atkins. Pic: M Holland

Cllr Philip Atkins. Pic: M Holland

“We do have a good story to tell, in than out our economic programme has already brought in almost £400million of investment, with every pound from the county council being matched by £15 from the private sector or Government, and once complete it will see the creation of over 13,000 jobs.

“We will continue to do everything we can to both make sure we build on this achievement, but also continue protect those people such as the elderly, people with disabilities and children in our care who through no fault of their own need our help the most.

“However, as a local authority we can’t spend more than we have coming in and, in order to try and close the increasing financial gap over the next five years, we will all have to work together to help each other more in our communities and take steps now to live out our lives longer, healthier more independently where we can as the public purse simply can no longer sustain the growing demand.“

But his comments have been branded “spin” by the opposition group.

Cllr Sue Woodward

Cllr Sue Woodward

Labour group leader and Burntwood Councillor Sue Woodward said residents would face further cuts if the plans get the green light.

“However the council leader likes to spin it, their budget still has a £12million gap where savings must be found,” Cllr Woodward said. “That means further service cuts on top of the many cuts we’ve all experienced over these austerity years.

“The fact that the Chancellor in his Budget failed to give any support to councils to deal with the huge pressures in children’s and adults’ care services shows yet again how out of touch the Conservative party is.”

 

The county council’s new financial plans include a rise of 4.95% in its share of the Council Tax bill.

But Cllr Atkins said the increase included the Government’s 3% per cent ring-fenced precept to be spent on local care.

“Staffordshire has benefited from one of the lowest county council taxes for a number of years and still will,” he said.

“However, while nobody wants to pay more in taxes, we want to be honest with people about the serious uphill financial challenges we face and why we all now have to pay a little more and do a little more to be able to continue to support those who need our help the most.

“The Government recognised the challenge in part by introducing the social care precept, but the issue of funding adult social care in the longer term is something which very much still needs to be addressed at a national level.”

But Cllr Woodward accused her Tory counterparts of playing games over the rise.

“The fact that the proposed increase in Council Tax is 4.95% fools no-one,” she said.

“This is just about the maximum possible increase and falls hardest on those with modest or fixed incomes.

Why don’t they just say 5% instead of pretending? It’s game-playing.

“The Government are just shifting the tax burden onto council tax payers, ordinary residents, while they continue to turn a blind eye to tax fiddles by the rich.”

The current proposals will go to the county council’s Cabinet on December 20, scrutiny in the New Year and Full Council in February.

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1 Comment

  1. Strumpet

    12th December, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    ” we all now have to pay a little more and do a little more to be able to continue to support those who need our help the most” sez Clacker Atkins. Think a 5% council tax is ‘more than a little’. We’ve all been paying quite a lot more for quite a while now. Everything has gone up except wages, and all i see are cuts. As a former NHS psychiatric nurse i know what services have disappeared -and not just in mental health -and the awful helplessness my former colleagues are feeling. People aren’t getting a service that we’ve all paid for, and you want to make more cuts? For shame on you for spin and nonsense.