Council Leader Warns Of More Cuts

The leader of Buckinghamshire County Council has warned once more that services will be damaged because of vastly reduced levels of government funding. Speaking at a recent cabinet meeting, David Shakespeare said the only way services could be maintained at current levels would be to shunt an ever greater cost burden onto the council tax payer but stressed that because of Government capping, the county would face a reduction in services so that expenditure levels matched income levels.

He said: “I can see little alternative and we will try and run our services as efficiently and effectively as possible and I want to apologise for the reductions we will have to make.” Cllr Shakespeare was speaking during the budget monitoring update report which revealed day-to-day overspends in several portfolios.

Lin Hazell, portfolio holder for children and families social care, said there would be a great shift towards family conferences in a bid to try and prevent children going into care. She also revealed that there would be an increasing use of a DVD for recruitment. In this portfolio, which includes school, there was a £3.9 million overspend as of July 31 this year.

Sue Imbriano, strategic director for childrens services, said staff were well aware of the need to reduce expenditure. She said individual vacancies were currently being covered by temporary staff and said the travel budget would also be examined. “Our primary concern is looking at these proposals is that children are safe and we will be making a detailed plan with a risk assessment.”

Mike Colston, portfolio holder for adult social care, said an overspend of £2.3 million has been reduced to £1.355 million through measures including a £600,000 overspend set aside to develop mental health services which will now have to be delayed.

Frank Downes, portfolio holder for resources, where the overspend is £330,000, blamed the situation on factors including high energy costs .

Cllr Shakespeare said: “We must be aware of the situation we have been put in. There is no easy answer.” He warned that the council’s long term investment programme would also be affected. Mrs Imbriano said she and other officers are lobbying the Department for Education and Skills and Cllr Shakespeare said the programme had been modified to include schools recently taken out.

Valerie Letheren, portfolio holder for transportation, said the Department for Transport was looking to give more in the way of grants.