Every penny counts

Date: Tuesday 31st October 2017

THESE are tough times for local authorities, who are faced with making even more cuts in response to the Government’s continuing stranglehold on public spending.

Cumbria County Council leaders are this week warning of a worrying situation in which a total of £27 million needs to come out of its budget in what is regarded as the largest single round of cuts in recent years.

The authority’s share of council tax will undoubtedly rise from April, increasing the financial pain for county residents, and its officers and councillors will be faced with some unpalatable choices as they consider ways of balancing the budget.

The authority has already retreated from some potential savings, such as closing fire stations or charging for on-street parking, in view of overwhelming public opposition. So if some services are being protected, the focus is likely to be on staffing.

It is unfortunate for the council that in the week it talks about making massive cuts it has also indicated that it paid out £1.7 million to two leading barristers who represented it in a court case that has already cost taxpayers £21.6 million.

The “no blame” culture operated by the council means nobody has taken responsibility for the court failure, yet the money that has been spent would have gone a long way to safeguarding the front-line services and staffing levels that are under renewed threat.

The financial figures surrounding the court case are astronomical at a time when every penny counts. Somebody surely must be held accountable.