Stoke-on-Trent’s social care budget may face more than £17million in cutbacks

GOVERNMENT funding cuts could force reductions of more than £17 million from a council’s social care and community services.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council managers say that cutbacks over the next four years will affect social care, health, sports and library services.

But they have vowed to shield the city’s most vulnerable residents from the impact of any reductions.

The council’s director of adult social care, health and communities, Tony Oakman, said his department had last year already saved the taxpayer £2.85 million.

The directorate cut its workforce by a fifth, losing 300 staff, to help make the saving.

And he said it is currently striving to find a further £8.7 million of efficiency savings over the next three years.

But Mr Oakman said he feared that the coalition government’s pledge to cut public spending by a quarter could slash his budget by up to £17.5 million by April 2014.

And he added: “We have taken some of the pressures out of the system, but we are entering a new era in terms of the coalition government’s requirements.

“At the same time, people want more and expect more from us, and delivered to a higher standard. There is no single part of the council’s business that won’t have to change in order to meet these expectations.”

Mr Oakman said that a blanket 25 per cent cut across all council directorates would reduce the current £70 million adult social care, health and communities budget by £17.5 million over four years – about £4.3 million per year.

Almost £60 million of the overall budget is spent on social care, while £10 million is earmarked for community services, including £3.8 million for libraries and archives, £2.4 million for museums and £3.7 million for sports and leisure.

Mr Oakman hinted that community services may have to bear the brunt of cuts, to protect frontline care services.

He added: “Some of the community services are statutory, such as museums, so we have to provide those. But others, such as libraries, are discretionary, so there is more scope about how we provide them, or if we provide them at all.”

Graham Urwin, chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent Primary Care Trust, said NHS managers were also worried about the impact of any cuts.

He added: “We must do all we can to support our colleagues at the city council as these reductions are implemented, because there is a risk they could impact on NHS initiatives, such as stopping patients stacking up in A&E.”

City Independent Councillor John Davis, chairman of the North Staffordshire Older People’s Association, said he fears that cuts to social care would be a false economy.

He said: “These services actually save money in the long term through prevention.”

But Lib-Dem Councillor Jean Bowers, who chairs the adults and older people’s wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I don’t believe they will suffer as long as we are all doing our jobs properly.”