Day by day the full reality of the ConDem Coalition Government's cuts are sinking in. On Monday night the Salford Star quoted Government figures stating that the cuts would be £33.5million, with an 8.5% reduction in the next financial year.
Then, thanks to a reader, we re-did the maths and it works out at a £37million cut over the next two financial years. Now Salford Council itself is quoting a cut of 15% next year, "not the 8.5% quoted on Monday" and a figure "expected to exceed £40million in the first financial year".
The press release explains… "The reality is that a number of grants allocated to some of the most vulnerable residents in the city will also be lost, resulting in a larger overall reduction."
John Merry, Leader of Salford City Council says "These budget cuts will affect everyone in the public sector. We have been working for some time to identify where we can make savings and deliver a balanced budget for the next financial year.
"As a democratically elected city council we have a huge responsibility towards our communities and it is inevitable that severe budget cuts will impact on some of the services we provide" he adds "Our priority now is to ensure key services are maintained and people continue to get the help and support they need. We also want to protect the staff we have working for the council. We will do all we can to protect people's jobs and the impact upon them and their families.
"We are facing difficult times" he concludes "but I stand by my commitment to this city and will deliver the best possible services to people in Salford with the remaining budget available."
Already, a letter has gone out from Salford Community Leisure stating it is "intending to save 30% of current expenditure…We are forced to introduce a range of cuts and charges to many of our services".
The letter talks about not replacing staff, introducing pay and display charges at Salford Art Gallery and Ordsall Hall and "the introduction of various forms of cost cutting and income generation" at "our Local History Library, education and learning service, exhibitions, outreach, communities and arts services".
However, next March, Salford Council will pay the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra £3million as part of the £20million sponsorship deal that lured the BBC to MediaCityUK. It will also be splashing £150,000 on opera at The Lowry (see here).
Meanwhile, a Salford Council report on the affects of the cuts in September forecast interest rate rises of up to 6% within the coming few years, which will hike up payments that it has to make on so-called `unsupported borrowing' - loans taken out by the Council that it has to pay back from its own budget.
The Council report in September revealed that "Over the 3 years to 2010/11 some £100m of unsupported borrowing will have been used to support the capital programme that needs to be funded from the revenue budget, and has therefore reached the cap set for that period.
"The forecast for interest rates to begin to rise later this year and into 2011 and 2012 will make the cost of this borrowing more expensive in revenue terms" it added. Part of that `prudential' or `unsupported' borrowing is a loan facility for £22million towards the stadium for Salford Reds rugby club. This is a joint venture with Peel Holdings, one of the richest companies in the north west. But the loan burden is to be borne by public money.
"I stand by my commitment to this city and will deliver the best possible services to people in Salford with the remaining budget available" says John Merry. But people may well be asking where some of that remaining budget is going…
Salford Council will finalise its 2011-12 budget by February 16th 2011