‘Savage’ £9m council cuts programme agreed in Portsmouth despite fears

Protestors against the �9m cuts proposed - and passed - by Portsmouth City Council
Protestors against the �9m cuts proposed - and passed - by Portsmouth City Council

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PLEAS for city leaders to put the brakes on ‘savage’ £9m cuts to public health and social care fell on deaf ears.

Portsmouth City Council’s Tory administration decided yesterday to formally go ahead with its 2017/2018 plan, which critics fear will lead to a big spike in homelessness and pile more pressure on the NHS – which they say is already facing a ‘crisis’.

Year upon year, the homeless services budget has been cut, and that’s having a direct impact on the number of staff and the quality of the service and the number of people we can help.

Homeless worker Cal Corkery

It came despite attempts by rival political groups to throw up alternative spending plans and attempts to put more money back in the budget to support the most vulnerable.

The biggest cuts come in adult social care – £1.382m and public health – £602,000 – which means sexual health promotion will be axed and fewer people will get face-to-face support.

People with substance and drink addictions will also get their support cut, while a ‘floating’ network of workers providing advice to tenants over rent and bills and social issues is to be abolished.

But Tory leader Cllr Donna Jones praised her team’s ‘entrepreneurial’ approach.

She said: ‘In the last two-and-a-half years, we have created over £3.3m of new income, which we already know will increase to over £5m over the next 12 months.

‘This is a staggering contrast to the previous administrations, which failed to think outside the box and instead addressed their savings targets by short-sighted political decisions such as closing public toilets.

‘We have worked hard using the business acumen the administration has to make sure short-sighted cuts such as the toilets don’t happen again.’

Yet homeless worker Cal Corkery said: ‘Year-on-year, the homeless services budget has been cut, and that’s having a direct impact on the number of staff and the quality of the service and the number of people we can help.

‘The end product will be more people on the street.

‘The rough sleeper count has already increased from 15 last year to 37 this year.’

Anti-cuts campaigner Jon Woods said: ‘We must take a stand.

‘People will be killed by these cuts.

‘We are seeing nearly £2m of cuts in social care, yet social care and the NHS are very much linked systems.

‘So cuts in social care will directly impact on the national crisis in the NHS.’

Unite regional organiser, Richard White, said: ‘People in Portsmouth are being lied to again.

‘Cllr Jones has said out of the £9m, only £900,000 will affect front-line services.

‘If that was the case, why did she make £8.1m of efficiency savings, before she cut the stop smoking, substance mis-use and other services?’

City parties outline alternative spending

PARTIES unveiled alternative spending plans.

The Lib Dems said they would save £201,000 through axing six council posts, reducing the number of ‘HR business partners’ and cutting the number of director PAs.

The party would have re-introduced the MB and MC parking zones, each generating yearly income of £49,000 and £98,000 respectively.

A ‘hidden’ £11,000 cut to the Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis service would be reversed.

Labour proposed cutting the basic councillor allowance by £80,000, the special responsibility allowance by £20,000 and reducing the number of cabinet members from nine to seven. It proposed moving to four-yearly elections, reducing management overheads by going ‘paperless’, and working with neighbouring councils to share costs.

Ukip called for smartphone technology to be used to check up that contractors have carried out scheduled works to stop costs being paid out without proof.

The party also called for the council to come together with the voluntary and community sector ‘as a means to identify opportunities for co-located and integrated working’.

Ukip’s ideas were endorsed by the Tories.