BUS routes will be slashed, at-home care drastically reduced, thousands of street lights cut off and scores of services scrapped or downsized to save £98m at Worcestershire County Council.
Bosses today revealed a three-year package to axe at least 600 jobs by 2017 by making the deepest cuts in the council’s history, including:
- Around 100 bus routes will be chopped or charge higher fares
- At-home care visits to vulnerable people will be drastically reduced and replaced by new assistive technology
- Thousands of street lights in residential areas switched off or dimmed at night
- A “likely” council tax rise next April for the first time since 2010
- Worcester’s popular Countryside Centre will be handed to a new provider, charge for parking, or could close completely
- Cuts to museums, the arts, and a major new drive to “commercialise” services, which could include charging for them
The measures were outlined at County Hall today, and follow months of work on how to respond to the public sector funding squeeze and major demographic pressures.
Old targets to scrap around 600 jobs by 2017 will now rise higher, although bosses say the final tally will only be known closer to the end of that period.
All “non essential” roles which become vacant will stay that way, with chief executive Trish Haines saying she will aim to “minimise” compulsory redundancies.
Every single service is being examined to see if can be provided by another organisation, including community groups, private companies and not-for-profit bodies.
Bosses say the package will save £30.3m in 2014/15, £25.1m in 2015/16 and £25m in 2016/17, kicking in from next spring.
The total comes to £98m once £17.9m of cuts for the current financial year are factored in.
The entire plan has been published in its early stages ahead of a major public consultation running throughout the autumn and winter, before the budget being set for 2014/15 in February.
It includes seven roadshows covering all corners of the county, meaning the public can get involved before anything is firmed up.
The Conservative leadership says the figures could change, depending on what funding the council gets next year from the Government, with an announcement due in December.
But they insist the plans are likely to become a reality and are “planning ahead”.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: “It’s a difficult situation for the council but as I’ve said before we’ve got to plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
“Times are tough and these kind of savings won’t come without having to make tough decisions.”
At the moment the yearly county council spend is just over £340 million per year.
* For more insight, in-depth analysis and reaction, see your Worcester News tomorrow.