Whole departments threatened as Derbyshire County Council is 'cut to bare bones'
THE opposition leader of Derbyshire County Council has warned entire departments at the authority may be axed if Government cuts continue at the same level.
Labour's Anne Western says the authority's budget is being "cut to the bare bones".
With Chancellor George Osborne announcing plans to squeeze local authority budgets further over the next five years, Mrs Western fear councils could be left in a position where they would have to choose which departments to abandon.
However, council leader Andrew Lewer has accused her of "irresponsible scaremongering", adding that Labour had opposed every efficiency saving made over the past three years.
Ms Western said: "If budget cuts continue on the scale we're seeing at the moment – as George Osborne has said he wants to do – we're looking at the council having to cut a further £125 million over the next few years.
"That's not a figure to be sneezed at. Clearly, that will have an impact on services.
"The mood at the Local Government Association is very depressing. Councils are saying that after a few more years of cuts on this scale, they will be left with providing care for older people and a few other statutory requirements like education – but nothing else. All budgets for other departments will have to be sucked into the areas that must take priority."
The crisis facing bosses at County Hall became apparent earlier this year when the Tory-led county council said it would axe 1,300 more jobs than originally planned by 2017.
The councillor in charge of finance, John Harrison, said the authority had been told it would get less money from the Government than initially hoped. As a result, he said job cuts needed to rise from 2,000 to 3,300 – and he could not rule out privatising some council services.
But Mrs Western said she feared the council would have to stop its services altogether for young people, economic regeneration and technology and recycling.
She said: "If these severe cuts continue, that's where we'll be. I don't think services would move into private areas, they would just stop. Things like youth clubs would fold as they wouldn't be funded properly.
"I don't think it will happen though, as I don't think the public would wear it. I think there will be mass protests or they will simply vote David Cameron and George Osborne out of power at the next election."
Hitting back at Ms Western's comments, Mr Lewer said: "This latest bout of scaremongering from Labour is particularly irresponsible given they have opposed every efficiency saving and service change we have made since 2009.
"Can you imagine the crisis the county council would now be facing if we had adopted their 'heads in the sand' attitude?"