Services to be hit by cuts

SWEEPING cuts unveiled by the government this week will have a huge impact on Brentwood which will bring major changes to the way services are delivered, the council leader has warned.

But speaking to the Recorder after Chancellor George Osborne revealed all councils face a 7.1 per cent budget cut for the next four years, Louise McKinlay promised to protect some services, including weekly bin collections.

Around �740,000 could be slashed from the budget, based on the council’s �10.5 million expenditure for this year.

It causes further headaches for officials who have already been wrestling with how to slice �2 million from spending over two years and rein in an expected �357,000 overspend.

Cllr McKinlay said: “The impact will be significant, there’s no getting away from that. It isn’t going to be addressed by little tweaks here and little tweaks there, it’s going to be quite profound, particularly for a small authority like Brentwood.”

But she insisted the council has braced itself for the impact and is in a strong position to cope, having already made significant reductions.

She said: “This hasn’t just come out of the blue, we’ve seen it coming.”

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Pledging to save rubbish collections, public toilets and street cleaning, the Hutton North councillor admitted that services will change in the way they are delivered.

Ms McKinlay said: “It’s not just about whether services are kept or cut, that’s one part of it, but it’s also how they’re going to be delivered.”

Government grants will drop from 90 to ten but Brentwood will be free to manage its affairs more freely as funding ringfences funds will go.

It will also be allowed to borrow against a predicted rise in future business rates.

Announcing the comprehensive cuts, and some investment, in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday the Chancellor said Britain has the largest structural debt in Europe at �43 billion, which is due to rise to �63b by 2014/15.

He said the coalition would bring Britain “back from the brink of bankruptcy” but added “it takes time to turn around the debt supertanker.”

Opposition leader Cllr David Kendall said it was vital for the council to be straight with people about where the axe will fall but also to maintain frontline services.

He added: “The government had to do something to reduce the deficit so I support them. But from a local authority point of view, it’s important that it spells out to people what it actually means in reality, what direct effect it’s going to have on them. The council is going to have to think radically.”