Views sought on council cuts

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Political leaders in North Yorkshire will this month set out their emergency contingency plans to counter a £90 million financial black hole.

Senior politicians and officers at the county council are about to embark on a series of face-to-face meetings with the public during January to outline how the shortfall is due to be met.

The consultations are also aimed at gleaning the public’s views on priorities in the authority’s financial strategy, but leading councillors have admitted key services such as social care and highways maintenance will be affected.

The council is in the middle of a four-year programme to slash its spending by £69 million by 2014/15 amid the Government’s austerity drive.

But a further council tax freeze and further changes to the Government’s funding are expected to mean the authority will have to cut spending by an extra £24 million over the next two years, making a total reduction of £93m by 2014/15. The Government is due to confirm this month the exact level of funding which will be provided from Westminster to the council, but plans are already being drawn up as to where the savage cuts will be made from the start of the new financial year in April.

The council’s deputy leader, Coun Carl Les, confirmed that the financial deficit is proving to be the biggest challenge ever faced by the authority in its 39-year history.

He added: “We need to hear from people now as to where they believe the savings need to be made – if they make their views known any later then it will be no good.

“We know that our services are extremely valued, but there is no getting away from it, everything is at risk of being affected. That is why we are getting out to talk to as many people as possible to find out what their views are while also setting out how we intend to tackle the deficit. We are operating to such a tight timescale that is obviously making the issue even more challenging.”

More than half the savings already made have come from reducing 
administration and bureaucracy, although the council is now having to conduct a review of every service.

In November it emerged the authority is facing a deepening crisis after being hit by unexpected costs of £2.5 million, with a total of £300,000 having to be earmarked to help finance a flood defence project in Pickering.

Ryedale’s consultation event will be held at 6.30pm at Pickering Library on Tuesday January 15.

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