Hundreds more jobs at go at Sheffield Council as £120m cuts planned

Sheffield Town Hall.
Sheffield Town Hall.
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Hundreds more jobs are to be lost at Sheffield Council as it cuts another £120m from its budget in the next five years.

The authority has already made £350m of savings since 2010 - losing around 1,000 jobs in the process.

Sheffield. Picture: Andrew Roe

Sheffield. Picture: Andrew Roe

It is now forecasting a further £40m of cuts next year alone, with plans being drawn up for savings to be made across departments.

The savings are necessary due to a combination of expected Government grant cutbacks and rising costs.

Councillor Ben Curran, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “There is no skirting around it - £120m will mean hundreds of jobs.

“We will do our best to protect them, they are jobs the people of Sheffield value and depend on.

“We have got a good record of managing things well. But it will continue to get tougher.”

The authority says it has already made savings that are the equivalent of running all the city’s parks and green spaces for 60 years.

The council has outlined its financial plan for the next five years ahead of an official Government announcement on grant reductions in December and a final decision in February.

Coun Curran said the council will lay out its specific saving plans for 2017-18 next month - with jobs and services likely to be hit.

He said no decision has been made yet in relation to potential council tax increases.

Coun Curran said of the council’s controllable budget of around £400m, a total of £116m of savings will need to be found by 2022.

The council has already made cutbacks from its departments of £352m since 2010, to cover £189m worth of Government grant cuts, as well as £163m of what the council term to be unavoidable financial ‘pressures’ - increases in spending in things like adult social care, pensions and redundancy costs.

Coun Curran said: “Make no mistake, the cumulative impact of the last seven years of budget cuts has been huge.

“We know that many people in the city have felt the impact of these cuts on their lives in a number of ways.

“But when we look back at these sums, it is only due to prudent financial management that people in the city have not seen a much greater impact on the services we all value.

“Our priorities have been taking care of people, spreading the savings, and finding innovative ways to keep delivering the services people care about.

“And there is more to come. We have more savings to make, particularly as the pressure on some services continues to grow and grow.

“The Medium Term Financial Strategy sets out the scale of the challenges facing the authority’s finances for the next five years.”

The news comes after Lancashire Council announced last month it will run out of money within three years and is predicting a £400m deficit by 2021.

County council leader Jennifer Mein has said that even with planned cuts, the authority was ‘not currently financially viable’.

Coun Curran said prudent financial management has prevented Sheffield from such a dire position, but things are due to become even tougher for local councils across the country.

“Local government is creaking already but it is still to face the worst hit,” he said.

“When you take this much money out of the sector, it is going to start hitting soon. Lancashire is the first example of where that is going really, really wrong.”

Coun Curran said the political fallout from the Brexit vote which has ended George Osborne’s austerity programme will not help local councils like Sheffield.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the Government was scrapping Osborne’s plan to reach a national budget surplus by 2020 in light of the Brexit vote.

Mr Hammond said the Government would now pursue a ‘flexible and pragmatic’ plan in light of the potential uncertainties caused by leaving the European Union, but promised to continue to ‘restore fiscal discipline’ to the country.

While reaching the surplus target was key for austerity measures affecting local government, Coun Curran said it was doubtful the new approach will assist council’s finances.

He said: “The indications are that is not the case. Even if there were to be fewer public spending cuts, it won’t be for local government.”