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Bolton Council Has Lost £1bn Of Spending Power Since Austerity Began

Monday, March 4th, 2019 10:13am

By Joseph Timan - Local Democracy Reporter

Every since 2011, the local authority has had to make big savings in its budget totalling £179m.

This includes the most recent budget passed in February which means the council will have to find £23.5m in savings over the next two years.

Some years, town hall chiefs have had to cut more than £40m from their budget.

If the year-on-year cumulative cuts did not take place, Bolton Council would have been able to spend £1bn more over the last decade.

This has had an impact on social care with adult and child services taking the biggest hits despite rising demand pressures.

Over a three year period, the adult services department had to find more than £10m in savings from the adult department and another £8.8m in children’s services

However, council leader Linda Thomas said despite the massive loss in spending power, it is still investing in the borough beyond its statutory requirements.

The money is to improve the quality of life and support for the most vulnerable in towns across the borough, according to Cllr Thomas.

She said the council is “innovating” in the face of austerity through capital investments like improving disability access, investing in leisure facilities and putting millions into community and environmental projects.

The latest capital strategy involves spending £212m on various projects across the borough.

Some of this will go towards the town centre masterplan but other investments include school expansions, fixing roads and improving townships.

She hit back at the opposition leader who proposed abolishing part of the council tax increase.

Conservative leader David Greenhalgh said it is not right to go back to residents with tax hike when services are reducing.

Cllr Thomas said: “For eight years, deliberate Tory government policy has been to make savage cuts that have taken away local day-to-day cash from council services that people across our towns deserve and pay for. In total a staggering loss of £1bn to local people.

“However, Bolton Conservatives are in denial and they have failed to fight for a fair deal for local taxpayers. Had we accepted the Tories’ budget amendments since 2014, Bolton would be bankrupt by now, discredited and would not be far behind Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council and Tory-run Surrey.”

She said the Labour council has succeeded in using specific ring-fenced capital investment, not day-to-day revenue cash, to mitigate the impact of the cuts.

The council leader added: “We have successfully stimulated the market ourselves and are sharing this success across our towns with a £16m investment into district town centres and a further £2m for essential environmental priorities.

“We make sure our school meals are nationally some of the lowest. We offer free breakfasts in schools where it’s needed and we are the first council in the country to open a new Children’s Centre while Tory-administrations continue to cut them.

Cllr David Greenhalgh defended his party’s proposal to freeze the local authority’s general tax precept.

He said: “Every year we produce a fully costed alternative budget in the context of the current position at the time. Every year we have been responding to a year on year increase to council tax by Bolton Labour.

“Clearly zero council increase every year is unsustainable, but equally year-on-year increases that you get under Labour, we believe, are unjustified, when the services residents get in return, are reducing.

“Labour can always find money, despite the savings, for their own targeted pet vanity projects, such as Asons or the town hall refurbishment, and throw billions of pounds into certain areas and neglect others.”

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