“The Premier League of cut councils”

COUNCIL bosses will need to find millions of pounds in savings after the authority saw its funding slashed by the government - and it is only going to get worse.

Hastings Borough Council will get 8.9 per cent less cash next year and the leader of the local authority, Cllr Jeremy Birch, has warned that figure will skyrocket within the next four years.

Cllr Birch reacted angrily to the announcement that Hastings would fall foul of the joint largest funding dip in the UK, saying the town was now “in the Premier League of cut councils”, along with the likes of Hackney, Hull, Liverpool and Middlesbrough.

That drop in spending power would have been nearer 21 per cent, were it not for a two-year package being offered to council’s in deprived areas to help ease the transition.

However, Cllr Birch said that the Government had failed to take into account the high levels of additional grants which had previously been given to Hastings, but subsequently shelved.

And he also said that the prop-up payments were merely delaying the inevitable.

“All this means is that instead of going over a cliff edge this year we may be facing it in two years time.

“We are having to plan over the four years of the government’s spending review and it is bad news for the residents of Hastings.

“Councils serving poorer areas are taking the largest cuts.

“Reductions like this cannot be met by efficiencies or by doing things differently.

”We are having to look at every area of council activity and asking do we need to do it, do we need to do it to the level we currently do and do we need to employ the same number of people?

“I am committed to protecting the key front-line services that local people told us they value most of all and limiting the number of redundancies.

“But what is clear from the government’s financial settlement is that in four years time Hastings Borough Council will be doing less, we will be providing less services and we will be employing less staff.

“There is no way round it.”

Local MP Amber Rudd however, saw it differently. She told the Observer that the settlement should be “viewed as an opportunity” for the council to make efficiency savings.

She said: “This settlement is unique because it comes with more power and autonomy for local councils so that they can drive out cost and protect services.

“Other Councils are already taking advantage of these new powers to find efficiencies and protect the frontline, with Adur & Worthing saving almost £2million by sharing services and management. Hastings must follow this example and I expect them to do so.”

Ms Rudd also pointed out that Hastings had been given an additional £200,000 to tackle homelessness and that the government had set cash aside to help authorities freeze council tax.

Hastings Borough Council residents what areas they would most like to see spending cut from, with cash spent on encouraging the arts, decorative lighting and CCTV among the most popular.