COUNCIL chiefs in South Tyneside have agreed £22m of cuts from their budget for the coming year - and hit out at the unfairness of the Government grant system which has made them necessary.
The borough has been hit with some of the hardest government cuts in the country for the 2015/16 financial year.
Whilst South Tyneside has to find savings of £22m in 2015/16, some areas like Wokingham and Windsor are actually seeing increases in their spending power - this cannot be fair or just by any measure.Coun Ed Malcolm
Council chiefs have had to find a further £22m of savings to balance the budget in the face of continuing central government grant reductions.
Measures to balance the books include raising council house rents by about £1.50 a week.
Negotiations are ongoing with trade unions over more job losses, despite 1,200 posts having already been shed since 2010.
The exact number of posts to go have yet to be determined.
A series of value-for-money service reviews across the authority has identified further savings.
The largest of those will be £7.5m from the council’s social care budget, with a greater emphasis being put on commissioning services which enable people to live independently.
Government grant funding has been cut by 45 per cent over the last five years, and the council has had to find savings totalling more than £100m to balance the budget.
For the first time since the cuts began, the council is asking residents to pay a little more in their council tax to help protect services.
The proposed increase is 1.95 per cent, which equates to around 32p per week for Band A households.
Coun Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation said: “The Government is continuing with their unfair policy of targeting grant-dependent areas like South Tyneside for the highest level of cuts.
“Whilst South Tyneside has to find savings of £22m in 2015/16, some areas like Wokingham and Windsor are actually seeing increases in their spending power - this cannot be fair or just by any measure.
“However, as always we have worked hard to balance the budget in 2015/16 whilst focusing on protecting the most vulnerable in our borough.
“We are doing our best to minimise the impact of the cuts on local people, and have taken action to ensure that the most vulnerable continue to receive the support they need.
“We are continuing to provide the local welfare support scheme, despite government removing the funding for this important safety net for the most vulnerable.
“We are maintaining our welfare support services, and we are still providing protection to vulnerable groups and those of pensionable age through the local council tax support scheme.
“Like many councils across the country, the impact of government cuts means we have had to consider increasing council tax to help maintain important local services.
“We are proposing to increase council tax by 1.95 per cent in 2015/16.
“This is the first increase in council tax in five years, and our council tax level remains low compared to other councils and is the second-lowest in the Tyne and Wear region.
“I want to reassure everyone in South Tyneside that this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is necessary to ensure we can continue to provide vital services over the coming year.
“We believe this budget delivers the best possible deal for the people of South Tyneside in the extremely difficult circumstances we face.
“We will continue to do our best for the borough despite the unfair cuts that have been handed down by the Government.
“We remain focused on investing in our future to create the jobs and opportunities for local people whilst seeking to protect the most vulnerable.”