I repeat here the text of an email sent to all Darlington Borough staff by the Chief Executive yesterday;
This financial year
You will remember, you were updated last month about the loss of £1 million of grants. Cabinet will be meeting later this month to consider proposals to reduce the 2010/11 budget. Once proposals are fully developed they will be communicated to you.
Planning ahead for next year
Last month the Government announced its emergency budget and signalled significant reductions to public spending including an indication that grants to Local Government could reduce by 25% over the next four years.
We will not know the exact level of reductions or when they will happen until October this year, however, what is very clear is the level of savings the Council will have to make are far greater than we expected when we set the budget in February this year.
In February, we thought the Council would have to save a further £11 million, the figure now is more likely to be £22 million over the next four years, it is also likely that a major element of the saving will have to be made in the next financial year, therefore, we are starting to develop plans to save £11 million next year.
To put this into context our controllable gross budget is around £107 million, so we face a massive challenge. The approach we planned to transform the Council to become sustainable in the future as set out in the new business model remains, however, the size and speed with which we need to make savings means the emphasis of the approach will need to focus on large savings which will inevitably mean significant reductions to services as well as efficiency savings.
The challenge for the Council will be tough and we will keep you informed on a regular basis.
Making swingeing £1 million cuts in year will be no easy task, and the Council has no room for the usual consultations about budget changes. As you can see from the email, next year looks far more fraught, if the ConDem budget is to be believed. We are entering a period of cuts to public services unprecedented since the 20's, immediately before the Depression took hold. This is an ideological attack which owes more to the far right's desire to reduce the role of the state to a rump, rather than anything to do with the economic situation. The LibDems of course are fellow travellers, and it will it seems put up with anything if they can wangle a voting system which benefits them.
People in Darlington can be assured, however, that whatever the Coalition may throw at us, the Labour Council will make the right decisions to put the needs of residents first, especially those most in need.
A final note - I trust that this all puts into context the reason why the Council simply couldn't agree to consider waving goodbye to £80,000 (plus other benefits) via an unsecured loan to the Forum. No-one doubts the value the Forum adds to the town, and the Council has in different ways done a lot in recent years to help the enterprise. I hope that another way can be found to keep the Forum in business.