Council must find £136m in savings

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THE man responsible for balancing the books at Northamptonshire County Council has warned cuts to both services and jobs will be inevitable as the authority tries to find savings of £68 million next year.

Councils across the country have announced plans to shed a total of 50,000 jobs as a result of the cuts announced in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review earlier this year.

Northamptonshire County Council’s chief executive, Paul Blantern, has so far refused to put a figure on how many jobs could go at County Hall or which services could face cuts, but he has admitted there will be major changes.

He said: “We can’t make £68 million of cuts without it having an impact on staff; to sit here and say there won’t be an impact on jobs would be false of me.”

As part of the Government cutbacks, the council has to find £68 million of savings in the coming financial year and an extra £25 million the following year, with the total target adding up to £136 million of savings over four years.

While Mr Blantern insisted the council had already made substantial reductions in bureaucracy and red tape, he said more savings now had to be found, inevitably involving changes to services.

He said: “We are a very lean organisation, we only spend four per cent of our budget on back-office services.

“But we’ve got to be honest, there will be an impact on the public.”

When the county council faced its last major round of cuts and changes to services in 2006, hundreds of people took to the streets of Northampton to oppose the changes and the chief executive said he would not rule out such scenes being repeated when this year’s budget is announced next month.

He said: “I’m sure it will be an emotional time for a lot of people.

“But we will do our best to listen to people and balance their needs.”

The council will announce its budget plans on December 14, two weeks after it learns from the Government exactly how large its annual funding settlement will be.