Council cuts will devastate our services, warns leader
The Conservative leader of Devon County Council has warned the Government spending cuts will have a "devastating" impact on frontline services.
In a letter written by John Hart to local government secretary Eric Pickles, the local authority boss warns of "reducing substantially" services it delivers to taxpayers.
The missive is remarkable as criticism of the austerity drive among top-tier authorities in the Westcountry has stemmed from Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders.
But Devon County Council faces having its budget cut from £600 million to £400 million over eight years and has already slashed 3,000 posts, including halving the number of middle managers.
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In the letter, leaked after it was also sent to Devon councillors and MPs, indicates a further 10% cut to central government funding in 2015 is the final straw.
Councillor Hart suggests the council has been able to cope with the cuts to date, but warns: "Those further reductions to our spending could have a devastating effect on non-mandatory services such as libraries and youth work."
Mr Hart also criticises the Cabinet minister's presentation of how deep the cuts will be on local government – pointing out a 1.7% cut in "spending power" this year is closer to 15% in reality.
The letter says: "The impact of your spending review has not been accurately portrayed."
It also warns the council will be hamstrung in attempts to create jobs, arguing "we are finding it increasingly difficult to find the cash to perform this vital function both for the good of our own county economy and the nation's economic health and recovery."
He ends the letter warning: "We cannot make these extra savings without reducing substantially the services we offer to the people of Devon."
Previously, Cornwall Lib Dem deputy leader Alex Folkes has said the additional cuts are "severe" and Labour councillor Tudor Evans, leader of Plymouth City Council, has accused Mr Pickles of "failing" local communities.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Councils account for a quarter of all public spending and councils are forecast to spend £102 billion this year, up on the year before.
"Every bit of the public sector needs to keep doing its bit to pay off the inherited deficit, and the Government has secured a good deal for local government, including freezing council tax for a further two years."