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FINANCIAL IMPACT: Stockport council targeting £10m cuts

FINANCIAL IMPACT: Stockport council targeting £10m cuts

Stockport Town Hall, Image: Adam Vaughan

Stockport council is targeting £10m worth of cuts next year as it attempts to recover from the ‘unprecedented’ financial impact of the Covid pandemic.

A report that went before cabinet this week sets out how the authority is facing a £20m budget gap in 2022/23, growing to £34m the following financial year.

Some of that £20m fiscal blackhole will be filled through taxation, fees and charges, potential government cash and the possible use of reserves.

But Stockport council bosses are also looking to make more than  £10m in ‘savings’ from across the organisation.

Deputy leader Councillor Tom McGee told cabinet members they were facing some ‘very, very difficult decisions and choices’.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said.

“We have identified, at the moment, about £10m savings. Some will be on posts not being filled, some will be changes in the way we do things, some unfortunately are likely to be reductions in services to some degree or another.”

Coun McGee said that any proposals put forward would be ‘up for discussion’ between now and the council’s budget-setting meeting in February.

But he warned that councillors must steer clear of short-term fixes.

“We need to think about how we can do something now to get us to a more sustainable place,” he added.

“Whether that’s us doing less, us doing it differently, somebody else doing it, somebody else doing it in a different way, automation, digitalisation – all those things need to come into play in the way we look into it.”

While no specific service cuts were revealed in the reports, Coun McGee anticipates some ‘significant discussion’ as the budget plans are developed and scrutinised over the course of the next five months.

“Some of those are very hard, I know because I have spoken to all my colleagues about what’s there,” he said.

“Ideally we would all be wanting to expand, to try and do a lot more growth, but we can’t. That isn’t possible, sadly.”

However, Coun McGee did disclose that the equivalent of 50 full-time posts were likely to come under the axe as the council looks to balance the books in 2022/23.

But he said not all those who wished to take voluntary redundancy may be able to do so.

“We need to make sure we have people in the right place delivering the key services. It’s really important we do that,” he said.

“Several years ago we suffered from wholesale loss of people in key posts and that really had an impact on the way we delivered services.”

Local authorities are anxiously awating the chancellor’s autumn statement in October, which they hope will give them an idea of how much money they are going to get and what they will be able to raise council tax by.

This is ahead of the Local Government Finance Settlment being confirmed in December.

Coun McGee said he was hopeful councils would be given a three-year settlement, as this would make budget planning easier in the medium term.

Budget proposals for the next financial year are set to go through two rounds of scrutiny, before going back to cabinet in November, with further discussions pencilled in for January.

“We have got a long way to go,” Coun McGee told fellow cabinet members.

“There will be a lot of people saying don’t affect x,y, or z and for everyone saying that there will be someone saying ‘please affect x,y, or z rather than what I want delivered.

“And we are going to have that pressure, which is not an easy job for anyone, I accept that.”

However he insisted there would be no ‘knee-jerk’ decisions.

He added: “We need to make long-term, sensible – in the context we’re in – decisions, which aren’t going to be easy.”

Stockport council’s cabinet met at the town hall on Tuesday night (September 21).

 

Words: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter


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