£21m in the RED: Deficit may hit vital services

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News

A £21 million budget deficit will see hard-hit council services squeezed even further.

The huge hole in Bedford Borough Council’s finances has been revealed in its new three-year budget forecast announced this week.

Portfolio holder for finance Councillor Michael Headley predicts more efficiency savings will not be enough to solve the deficit, and some services will have to “radically change”.

In its Medium Term Financial Strategy report, the council outlines its financial position in light of central government’s massive funding cuts.

It also highlights areas where it will carry out service reviews to consider how services can change to deliver greater value for money while meeting users’ needs.

These include, the adult social care development plan, waste and recycling, libraries, cultural services, support services, council-owned company and transport.

The council has already achieved savings of £87million since 2010 through measures which include reducing staff numbers, cutting back office costs and introducing new ways of working.

Councillor Headley said: “Unfortunately, efficiency savings alone won’t get us anywhere near meeting the £21million budget gap we have. It is going to be hard, and in some areas services will have to radically change.

“These decisions are being forced upon us by the onslaught of cuts in funding coming from central government.

“We hope that by working together with the community, we can find new ways of providing and protecting services that are important to residents in Bedford borough.

“I want to be clear that our priority is to protect frontline services for residents to the greatest degree that is possible.”

The report follows the announcement of the final Local Government Finance Settlement, which outlined a cut of 80 per cent of the main Government grant over the four years from 2015/16 to 2019/20. This has left Bedford Borough Council with a budget gap of £21million by 2019/20.