£37m drop in funding could see cuts to frontline council services in Portsmouth

The packed Portsmouth City Council budget meeting. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142713-5)
The packed Portsmouth City Council budget meeting. 'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (142713-5)

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CUTS to council services will continue for another three years as Portsmouth City Council faces a £37m drop in funding from central government.

Last night, the council’s leader and chief financial officer laid out the difficulties the authority will face between now and 2017.

Each year, the council spends on average £506m.

But £297m of that is ringfenced for services and has to be given back to the government if it is not spent.

Over the next three years, £37m of savings will have to be found – around 25 per cent of its controllable spending.

Chris Ward, chief financial officer, told an audience at Portsmouth Guildhall how cuts will have to be borne by services used by residents.

‘The overall message is there are not any easy answers to this conundrum,’ he said.

‘We have got to a point where all the services are going to have to make significant savings.

‘Otherwise, there will be severe cuts in some services that may or may not allow them to continue.’

Mr Ward said the cuts will be spread over the next three years at £12.5m.

But the figures are based on a council tax rise of 1.95 per cent for those years.

If councillors decide council tax will be frozen, that will lead to cuts of around £13.1m each year – putting even more of a burden on council staff to find savings.

The meeting was part of a consultation with members of the public on the next financial year’s budget.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of the city council, said she would consider postponing the final vote on the budget by a month if necessary.

She said: ‘One of the things I want to do in the city is address the inequality in Portsmouth.

‘We know that the next three years we will have cuts in government funding.

‘Last year there were 400 responses to the council’s budget consultation. This year we have 1,700 with another week to go.

‘This year we have had consultation questions that give people something to get their teeth into.

‘We are already working through some of the answers.

‘We were looking to set the budget in November meeting of the council.

‘I’m considering waiting until December, so that if we need to go out and talk about the changes, then we can. I have to say so far we have worked really hard on the budget.’

To take part in the authority’s consultation on next year’s budget, visit surveymonkey.com/s/ResidentBudget by Monday.