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We won't run a "sham" consultation, vows County Hall leader
THE leader of Worcestershire County Council says he is determined not to run a “sham” consultation over £98m of cuts - and insists he wants to hear your views.
Councillor Adrian Hardman has stressed that public input into County Hall’s package of savings will be vital, and that no decisions are set in stone.
As your Worcester News revealed two weeks ago, the Conservative leadership has drawn up proposals for record cuts by 2017 in a bid to balance the books.
It includes well over 600 job losses, reductions in at-home care visits, cutting off street lights, less parks and green space maintenance, hiving out services to new providers, with departments across the authority taking a hit.
Coun Hardman says he wants as much feedback from the public as possible, ahead of a series of key roadshows taking place in the coming weeks.
“I don’t know the answers to every problem, and nor do I pretend to,” he said.
“These proposals are not set in stone, otherwise we’d be running a series of sham consultations, and I am determined that won’t be the case.
“If we didn’t listen to what the people say about this, we’d be fools. So we will be looking at their views and taking them on board.”
He also said one of the major challenges he faces getting people in Worcestershire to accept some of the changes, given its pace.
“We will still invest in the things which bring the greatest economic interest to the county,” he said.
“But we need to face up to the fact that we have less money, so we must reform and do things differently.
“I know it is difficult because Worcestershire is conservative with a small ‘c’, but we must address it.”
The savings factored in are £30m in 2014/15, and around £25m for each of the following two financial years.
On top of that, in the current 2013/14 financial year around £18m is being chopped from spending.
It has also emerged in the last few days that Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement - when councils are given indications of what cash to expect next year - will be Wednesday, December 4.
But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will then need to take the figures and calculate grant awards to each town hall, which means the true picture for Worcestershire won't be fully known until Christmas time.
Coun Hardman said Eric Pickles, local government minister, has already told him to expect firm figures "with your turkey" once again this year.
Officers at County Hall say they don't expect the funding to mean any cuts will have to worsen, and believe the figures contained in their financial forecasts will ultimately prove accurate.
The county’s opposition Labour group has reiterated its stance on the savings, with leader Councillor Peter McDonald saying it will “destroy” services.
“I would support comments saying it’s devastating - it is terrible for the county,” he said.
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