‘Tough settlement’ for Derbyshire

County Hall, Matlock.
County Hall, Matlock.

Despite assurances from Derbyshire County Council that a £125m spending cut will not affect front-line services, leader of the Labour group Anne Western has slammed the guarantee as “disingenuous”.

Council leader Cllr Andrew Lewer has acknowledged that the spending cut is a “tough settlement” for the county but believes that the authority can work hard to protect services through efficiency savings.

The authority will tackle the budget cut by losing 2,000 members of staff – through voluntary redundancy, early retirement and vacancy control – as well as selling off surplus buildings and land, working more efficiently and cutting spending from back-office budgets.

But Anne Western is not convinced that these measures are enough to ensure that Derbyshire’s essential services will be protected.

She said: “It seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and I am not hopeful about what that means for Derbyshire’s services.

“I think the assurance is really quite disingenuous because you can’t keep providing services by one-off land sales and other such things.”

Instead Anne believes that the authority should be more outspoken in demanding a less severe spending cut from the Coalition.

But Cllr Andrew Lewer has said that the authority is “committed to cutting out waste and providing the best possible value for money” for residents.

He said: “I can confirm that we are planning to freeze council tax for the third year running as we are not prepared to ask local people to dig deeper and pay more in council tax.

“Instead, we will make money go further by continuing to find cheaper and better ways of delivering our services.

“Yes, it will mean tough decisions and changes to some services. But we are committed to cutting out waste and providing the best possible value for money for our council taxpayers.”

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced the new style settlement on December 19 saying it was aimed at rewarding striving councils with more income.

The ‘fair funding deal’ which, it is claimed, will support authorities that improve their communities, is a major shake-up of local finance.