Harrogate and North Yorkshire councillors respond to autumn statement

Harrogate Borough Council offices. (1401142AM5)
Harrogate Borough Council offices. (1401142AM5)

Another raft of cuts may have to be made as part of further austerity introduced in the 2014 autumn statement.

Announced by Chancellor George Osborne this month, national savings of £10bn will be made by 2017/18 as part of a continued package of austerity measures to reduce the UK deficit.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has already made £94m of cuts since 2010 and is now in the process of making £76m further savings to meet an overall reduction of about £170m - 34 per cent of the council’s total budget.

Already affecting libraries and some services for older people and children, according to NYCC executive member for central and financial services Coun Carl Les (Con), the autumn statement proposals will mean further changes.

“We have a good record up to now of being able to make efficiences within the organisation without touching the frontline services, but we always knew in this next phase we would have to look at what services we deliver, not just how we do it,” he said.

“At the same time we have launched this stronger communities programme, which is designed to do just that.

“We share our communities’ concerns about the future. We have to make the best job of the financial grants we are being given and we believe that stronger communities will go a long way to mitigating the effects of having to find savings while the government balances the books.”

Also announced were some investments into the wider Yorkshire region including £1.1bn to improve the condition of roads, more than £260m to support over 190 flood defence projects, making the M62 a smart motorway, and upgrading all the remaining A1 to motorway, improving the A57, A61, and A628.

There is also £7bn promised to build a ‘northern powerhouse’, connecting major cities in the north of England, going towards roads, trains, broadband, and science.

HBC leader Coun Richard Cooper (Con) said this was something positive to take away from the statement, and that funding reductions were broadly the same as the council’s assumptions which they had already catered for that.

He said: “It is natural for people to be concerned about reductions in expenditure, however, you can’t keep borrowing because if you do, as a country, a council, or a household, eventually the economy hits the buffers.

“We have to find a way of preserving the services that are important to us. I am concerned, but the brutal fact is that the country was too highly indebted. HBC has managed reductions without cutting frontline services and there are none planned for next year.”