Vulnerable at risk in new cuts crisis
VITAL services for the most vulnerable residents are facing a fresh funding crisis as Stoke-on-Trent City Council is facing another £50 million in budget cuts over the next two years.
Councillor Mohammed Pervez, leader of the Labour-run council, last night warned the authority faces a 'bleak future' with the coalition Government now expected to demand cuts almost as severe as the £60 million savings already made in the last two years.
Leaders have instructed senior officers to launch an emergency examination of every service to deliver 'radical' savings plans.
But senior figures warn services for the vulnerable, disabled and elderly could now be at risk.
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One of the only cuts the Government has confirmed will see the grant which helps to fund children's centres slashed by £3.9 million, more than 27 per cent, to £10.5 million.
Speaking at a meeting of the full council last night, Mr Pervez said: "All indications are now that this Government is moving full speed ahead with cuts to local authorities.
"This will seriously undermine our ability to deliver vital services to our residents and may leave us struggling to help some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
"The speed at which the Government is reducing funding is unreasonable, unfair and endangers our core services.
"This time you can be sure that it is not about driving down waste or reducing back office functions. This time, finding £50 million will leave us having to look seriously at what services we can provide."
The authority will not learn the exact details of its Government funding settlement until December but has received estimates based on 'expert analysis' and the Local Government Association's budget calculations.
The council's leadership pledged to lobby the Government to rethink funding cuts – and to reinstate the early intervention grant which supports children's centres.
Mr Pervez also said the authority will press ahead with its Mandate for Change vision to prioritise investment in economic growth and job creation.
But opposition councillors seized on the council's regeneration projects, including a new £40 million Civic Centre in Hanley, as evidence that leaders are making the funding meltdown worse.
Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, pictured, said: "Let's put our own house in order first. Before we start building the new one, learn to manage with what you have got. It isn't all down to cuts. You can't blame the Government for your borrowing."
Abi Brown, Conservative leader, added: "We have empty buildings which are not up for sale, and yet you are selling the ones we want to use."