Leaders express mixed emotions over council saving concerns

Firm opens Portsmouth base

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CITY leaders have shrugged off concerns over savings which need to be made in the wake of funding cuts from central government.

A meeting yesterday revealed savings of £31m would need to be made by Portsmouth City Council over the period 2016/17 to 2018/19.

This is in addition to the £9m that the council needs to save in the next financial year.

However, an annual audit results report highlighted a ‘significant risk’ in relation to the council’s ability to realise the savings required.

A party leader has now expressed concern over the impact that these savings will have on Portsmouth residents.

The report, which was published by auditors Ernst & Young LLP, says that the risk is created by a requirement for ‘more fundamental changes to the delivery of services’.

It stated: ‘The impact of continuing reductions in funding from central government is a challenge for the council.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Portsmouth Liberal Democrats, was worried that the ongoing funding cuts have ‘become too much’.

He said: ‘It is now very difficult to be able to find the savings that the government are pushing us to make. People should be concerned that things will cost more and more over time.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said that the problems imposed on services provided by the NHS and waste disposal centres off the back of the cuts were ‘just not sensible.’

‘What I hope is our MPs will be fighting to say that Portsmouth needs a better deal from the government.’

Despite the concerns raised in the audit report, Ernst & Young LLP did acknowledge the council’s ‘good record of delivering required savings over previous years’.

Tory councillor Ian Lyon was less concerned over the report’s findings as chairman of the council’s governance, audit and standards committee.

He said: ‘I think it’s important that it’s pointed out to the people of Portsmouth.

‘The aim of the governance, audit and standards committee is to ensure that the officers of the council raise their game as much as they can, in order to improve services and make sure that they are spending our money as wisely as possible.’