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‘Difficult decisions’ to be made over spending cuts
10:10am Sunday 30th September 2012 in Local
MORE “difficult decisions” will need to be made over spending cuts at Worcestershire County Council, according to a national watchdog.
The Audit Commission has given County Hall’s budget a clean bill of health for another year, but has warned of major “financial pressures” which are on the way.
Liz Cave, the region’s auditor, said the council was right to look at making more cuts even if they prove unpopular.
Council bosses are looking to shed up to £90 million from spending by 2016, which includes 857 job losses.
Ms Cave, appearing before a meeting of the audit committee, said the belt-tightening would “get tougher” but praised the council for tackling it early.
More than £30 million was saved in 2011/12 and a further £19.7 million is needed this year, but more than £8 million has already been achieved in the first five months of the financial year.
She said: “There are key challenges ahead for the authority, but so far the approach has been very business-like and it gives me confidence the planned savings will be delivered.
“The financial pressures are getting tougher and it will continue to need difficult decisions in the future.”
She flagged children’s services spending as the main area for concern due to the increasing demands placed upon it.
Despite widespread cuts elsewhere, the county council earmarked an extra £1.5 million to the children’s services department for 2012/13.
The early forecast suggests even that will not be enough to plug the gap, with an overspend of £3 million predicted on placing children into homes.
Ms Davies said the key was to “offset” the high spending by making savings elsewhere, or use the cash reserves to fund it.
Members of the committee welcomed her feedback, but some politicians bemoaned the financial outlook.
County councillor Peter McDonald, leader of the county’s Labour group, said: “At this time of austerity and cuts, where are we going to get the money from?
“People talk about us working in partnership with other bodies, but anyone can say fancy words – we need more money.”
Councillor Clive Holt, who chairs the audit committee, said: “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make decisions based on the financial situation we are in.”