Council cuts damage fear

Council leader Barrie Grunewald
Council leader Barrie Grunewald
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COUNCIL leader Barrie Grunewald fears swingeing government cuts will cause irreparable damage to local authorities, warning: “We are on the brink of no return.”

Coun Grunewald spoke out after learning last week St Helens Council is facing a 10 per cent reduction to its budget following chancellor George Osbourne’s spending review.

But he believes worst could follow as authorities only find out the full extent of the savings they must make once the council tax settlement is announced in December.

“This is a budget of no hope, no help to build affordable homes, no help for people out of work, particularly our young people and nothing to stimulate the retail and business sector in St Helens,” said Coun Grunewald.

“Why are the services that councils provide - caring for elderly people, protecting vulnerable children and adults, keeping our streets clean, keeping people healthy - so much less important than the services delivered by central government?

“What else is left to cut without losing services which people have come to rely on and give them quality of life. The cuts are totally disproportionate to cuts in Whitehall departments. We are coming to the point where the damage to local government will be irreparable. We are on the brink of no return.”

St Helens Council has made saving of £50m over the past four years, shedding around 1,100 jobs. Council bosses have fought hard to protect core departments but have been left with no option but to axe many non-essential services.

Coun Grunewald added: “With the cuts to council budgets the government is in danger of putting more and more families on the breadline especially in places like St Helens which is bearing the brunt of the cuts rather than the leafy south.

“And the final kick in the teeth is that the European funding to Liverpool City Region has been cut by a staggering 60 per cent, another funding carpet pulled from under our feet which would have helped to stimulate the local economy, creating much needed jobs.”

l Read Coun Grunewald’s weekly Reporter column - page 59