Senior councillor warns cuts are starting to bite

A senior councillor at St Helens Council says cuts are beginning to bite
A senior councillor at St Helens Council says cuts are beginning to bite
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A performance report has offered up real evidence that government cuts are “beginning to bite”, a senior St Helens councillor has said.

Over the next two years, the council will face government funding cuts totalling £9 million, resulting in £90 million worth of cuts over a ten-year period.

The authority will aim to claw back £20.6 million up until 2020, with a council tax rise in March one of many planned measures taken to try to hit that target.

Coun Anthony Johnson, cabinet member for collaborative resources, presented the performance outturn report 2017-18, which gives an overview across each portfolio and details where targets were achieved, to cabinet last week.

Coun Johnson told members the council has been a seven per cent reduction in the number of targets it had achieved in 2017-18.

He said: “This shows us real evidence that the situation from the cuts from central government is really beginning to bite.

“It’s making it much more difficult for us to actually achieve the targets we have in place.

“Year on year we are seeing the amount of money we have to spend on services cut. And year on year it makes it more and more difficult.

“But that doesn’t stop us keeping those targets in place. I think the aspirations of the council to meet high quality targets across the borough is something we need to keep in place.

“Even though it may become more and more difficult to actually meet those until we actually get a government that is receptive to providing a reasonable amount of money for use to actually deliver on the services we need for our residents.”

Coun Johnson said in some areas, failure to meet “ambitious” targets does not necessarily equate to poor performance.

Equally, he said that when targets have been met, it is not always an indicator that performance is strong.

However, Coun Derek Long, leader of the council, said the authority is not able to control many of the things which it sets targets for.

Deputy leader, Coun Andy Bowden, who is also the cabinet member for balanced development, housing and economic opportunity, said the council is in “extremeley challenging times”.

He added that the uncertainty of Brexit will bring new challenges to the borough.

He said: “We’re in extremely challenging times as a nation and as an authority with the impact of government cuts that have been highlighted.

“But of course, in terms of businesses, the uncertainty brought around by Brexit and the consequences of what that will be, respecting the outcome of the referendum, however it brings its challenges for the local economy and particularly economies within Northern towns and the North West.”

Coun Bowden said the actions shown in the report shows the “pro-active and positive approach” the council has taken to recognising the importance of jobs and growth.

The performance report highlights the Haydock Industrial Estate and Florida Farm developments.

It also notes the council’s joint venture to transform the former colliery site Parkside into a strategic employment site and the ‘Glass Futures’ scheme.

Coun Bowden said the “major investment is probably higher than this borough has ever seen in its lifetime”.

He also called on business leaders to work with the council as a driver for growth for the borough.

Coun Bowden added that the council is continuing to work on the Local Plan and re-emphasised its commitment to deliver a plan that reflects the council’s ambition that is balanced for the borough’s communities.

Cabinet noted the report.
Kenny Lomas , Local Democracy Reporting Service