‘We can’t spend money we don’t have’ - council

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SIX public meetings as part of Sheffield Council’s consultation about £57 million of spending cuts to be made in the next financial year.

The move follows a letter sent to every household at a cost of £20,000, asking for people’s suggestions on how the authority should save money - which resulted in more than 1,900 replies before yesterday’s deadline.

Sheffield Town Hall will be used to host the meetings, covering separate aspects of council spending.

■ Voluntary and community sector consultation event - Friday, January 13, 10am – 12.30pm

■ Development and climate change issues - Monday, January 30, 10am – 12.30pm

■ Culture and environment, on parks, sports and leisure issues - Monday, January 30, 2pm – 4.30pm

■ Waste management - Monday, January 30, 6.30pm – 9pm

■ Adult social care and support event - Tuesday, January 31, 2pm - 4.30pm

■ Youth services - Tuesday, January 31, 4.30pm – 6.30pm

Sheffield Council leader, Coun Julie Dore, said: “We are facing the toughest times in probably a generation.

“Sheffielders are known for their pragmatic approach to dealing with difficult problems and I would invite them to come and find out more about proposals we have for managing the city’s budget next year.

“We want to hear from as many people as possible on what their priorities are which will help councillors make those difficult decisions in March when we set the budget.”

Responding to protesters opposed to public spending cuts, Coun Dore added: “We can’t spend money we don’t have.

“We would encourage everyone in the city to get involved with the conversation over how best to make the savings that, unfortunately, we have no choice about making.”

The council said more than 1,900 answers have been received to Coun Dore’s letter but that it was too early to reveal details of public suggestions as the deadline for replies has only just passed.

But opposition Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed called the letters and meetings were ‘an expensive and meaningless PR stunt’ because draft plans for savings have already been drawn up by officers before Christmas.

Coun Mohammed said: “The council leader should end this charade and make all budget proposals public so that local residents can genuinely have their say.”

The only savings plans which have been made public are up to 690 job losses - because the council has had to give notice to the Government by law.

The Star has received dozens of replies after asking readers how they would cut council spending.

Suggestions were cuts to councillors’ and officers’ pay and allowances, privatise minibuses, bring in fortnightly bin collections, reduce frequency of grass cutting, cut spending on immigrants and minority groups, reduce administration staff, axe the communications team and restrict resurfacing to main roads.

■ Green Party councillors have called for action by the council to help 6,700 households having their housing benefit cut due to a Government cap on the payments which comes into force this month.

Sheffield Green Party housing spokesman Bernard Little said: “Most people in receipt of housing benefit are pensioners, disabled people or families with children.

“It means that people on low incomes face the choice of cutting spending on food to pay their rent or having to move out of their home.”

■ To attend one of Sheffield Council’s consultation meetings on the cuts, call 0114 273 5417 or email budget@sheffield.gov.uk.

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