Councils will have to make some difficult decisions

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Ever since the government's spending review in October, local authorities knew it was coming. But it's still painful.

Yesterday merely brought confirmation by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, that council budgets will be reduced by 26 per cent from April 2011-March 2015.

Difficult decisions are going to need to be made to meet this figure. Every line of every council department budget is going to have to be closely scrutinised.

Looking for positives, it may well be that some local authorities do emerge leaner and more efficient as a consequence of having a lot less money to spend.

But although brave faces are being put on the cuts – Havant Borough Council has promised the service it provides won't be affected despite losing 5.32m per year – we find it hard to believe that they can be absorbed without taxpayers noticing some sort of difference.

At the other end of the scale, Hampshire County Council has warned that everything except education will be under review because it is going to lose more than 140m in the next four years.

In Portsmouth, the city council will lose 17.5m per year but it maintains that it won't cut children's care, adult social care and social housing.

We're pleased to see that such core services are going to be protected. But everything else is up for discussion. And in order to maintain budgets in some key areas, those in others are going to have to take a big hit.

Maybe Havant Borough Council's idea of sharing services to reduce costs is the way forward. Already working in partnership with East Hampshire District Council, it aims to go much farther in terms of sharing staff and developing closer working relationships with other authorities such as Hampshire County Council.

One thing is certain. Every local authority is going to have to be prepared to innovate and accept it must change the way it has operated until now. Because the government is no longer going to pick up the bill.