Council coffers teetering on edge

THE LEADER of the borough council has told how the authority is “tipping over the edge” as it faces a 70 per cent cut in funding following the Government’s austerity measures.

Councillor Jeremy Birch said the report produced by the authority’s director of finance Peter Grace should come with a “government health warning.”

He was speaking at Monday night’s cabinet meeting at the Town Hall when Mr Grace gave details of his Medium Term Financial Strategy between 2014 and 2017.

“This is not happy reading,” said councillor Birch. “It is very frightening. Local government had taken the biggest hit. Councils like Hastings are taking the biggest cuts. The figures are stark.”

Mr Grace told the cabinet how the authority was now “skating on thin ice” after asking members to approve the shifting of £1.5 million from Capital and General Reserve to the transition reserve. This was to cover a shortfall in funding from central government over the next three years leaving around £4.6 million in the council’s coffers.

Mr Grace predicted that by 2016/17 the cumulutive reductions in grants will be -70.8 per cent.

Cllr Birch said: “We can’t run the council the way we did before. We have some of the worst socio-economic issues in the country and we are possibly taking the biggest hit of any local authority in the south east region. They aren’t facing this scale of cuts in Epsom and Ewell or Reigate councils.

“This is not happening in the posh areas and we have to make sure that residents understand this.”