Whilst rumors abound of cuts around Surrey, the Council has been tight lipped about where the axe is going to fall.

There is a Council Cabinet meeting of the council February 1st, which will discuss the cuts in detail. On February 8th there is a meeting of the full council scheduled which will finally decide on the budget for the coming year. What is clear, the reduced government block grant is set to have an impact on services.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said in December there would be cuts of between 0.31% and 6.96% in the ‘revenue spending power’ of Surrey’s 11 borough and district authorities, plus the county council.

But the real figures for reductions in funding which comes direct from central government are much higher, as the revenue spending power totals included council tax money – which is collected locally – plus other smaller grants separate from the core ‘formula grant’.

The council funding settlements for 2011/12 and 2012/13 are provisional and the final figures have still to be confirmed. Council tax rates are set to be frozen for the next financial year, and Mr Pickles said: “We are stopping any revaluation and setting up a £650m fund so town halls can freeze council tax this April.”

But local authorities in the county, where cuts to jobs and services have been part of the landscape in recent years, warned of challenging times ahead.

Surrey County Council said its main central government grant was being cut by 25% over the two years, meaning a £41m funding reduction. Teams have already started cost-cutting ‘Public Value Reviews’ with the intention of making public service cuts like the proposed 25% cuts to the county’s fire service.

In Woking, voluntary and community groups will be asked to play a greater role in council services from next year -after a higher than expected cut in the borough’s annual grant. A total of £1.7m will be shaved off its contribution from central government up to 2013, equating to a 28.5% cut in Whitehall funding.

The borough council’s leader, Cllr John Kingsbury, said they were looking at following up the move of neighborhood police officers into Woking’s civic offices by inviting other public sector bodies to do the same. He added: “We will do things like looking at our investment programme, among other things, between now and February. The fact is, we need to save £1m.”

The formula grant cuts for Guildford Borough Council have been set at 15.7% (£1.2m) for 2011/12 and 11.3% (£731,000) for 2012/13. Leader of the council, Cllr Tony Rooth, said: “This is a very tough financial settlement but is in line with our projections. “We have been working across all our services to identify ways of making reductions in our expenditure and increasing our income, such that we can meet the financial challenges with the minimum impact on our residents.”

Before this week’s announcement, the council had already flagged up areas where savings could be made, such as axing the £100,000 staff subsidy at its restaurant. Strategic director Sue Sturgeon said it was still too early to finalise any spending cuts, but she added that other revenue streams, including car parks and the Spectrum leisure centre, were also suffering because of the recession.

Surrey Heath Borough Council said it had been taken unawares by the depth of the cuts made to its funding. The authority is set to lose more than £1m from its government grant over the next two years. Kelvin Menon, the borough’s head of corporate finance, said: “The proposed cuts are much deeper than the council expected, making them far harder to manage”.

“Surrey Heath Borough Council has already made significant savings in the past and it will be increasingly difficult to make savings of this size in the future without having an impact on services”. Surrey Heath’s main formula grant from central government was £4.4m this year. It will shrink to £3.6m and then £3.1m over the next two financial years. The borough council has already scrapped the full time Ian Goodchild day centre for the elderly in Camberley, while fees and charges for services like Meals-on-Wheels and Dial-a-Ride have risen.

In Elmbridge, the borough council admitted it faced a “huge challenge” after it was hit by the largest ever cut to its central government grant – double what officers had anticipated when setting out budget plans for the next financial year. The authority said it would now have to find further savings of £300,000 in order to balance the books. It said it was set to lose a third of its funding from Whitehall over the next two years – with reductions of 16.8% in 2011/12 and then 13.5% in 2012/13.

Jobs are set to be axed in the personnel, environmental health and licensing, housing and social services teams. The out-of-hours services will be scrapped, cutting £14,500 from the budget, and £15,000 will be saved after a decision to stop providing ‘poop scoop’ dispensers. Information for residents will be published online rather than in leaflet form, saving around £2,300. Elmbridge will also share the role of head of IT with Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, meaning another £35,000 of savings.

In Epsom & Ewell itself, the cuts in central government funding were said to be “as bad as expected” – 16.5% in 2011/12 and a further 10% in 2012/13. The borough’s formula grant is set to plummet from £4.1m at the moment to £2.8m. The council has made preparations for cost reductions of £750,000 next year, including a further pay freeze except for low paid staff, redundancies to cut the payroll by £500,000 and other savings on overheads including energy usage, training and external advisers.  

District council services will have to be provided next year in Mole Valley with almost 18% less government money. Its £4m grant will go down to £2.92m, followed by a further £375,000 cut in 2012/13. Saving money in Mole Valley has already hit services over the past couple of years, including leisure, maintenance of parks and recycling facilities. Dorking Halls has seen its budget slashed and was only able to stage a pantomime this year due to the intervention of a production company.

Waverley Borough Council has been left to find another £400,000 of savings after a “disappointing” grant settlement from central government. “The harsh reality is that we are facing a 17% reduction for 2011/12 and 14% for the following year,” said finance portfolio holder, Cllr Mike Band.” This is approaching a cut of 30%, which is a significant amount and it will have a further impact on our budget.”

Waverley had based its budget preparations for next year on having to find savings of about £1.6m, but Cllr Band said: “We will now have to save £2m, so a further £400,000 of savings will have to be found. Council leader, Cllr Robert Knowles, described the grant settlement as unfair and said they would be making “urgent representations” on the matter to MPs Anne Milton and Jeremy Hunt.

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is due to see a formula grant drop from £6.1m now to £5.1m in 2011/12 and then £4.6m the year after (16.4% and 8.9% cuts for the two years). Council leader, Cllr Joan Spiers, added: “Clearly running a business with 25% less money over the next two years is going to be a huge challenge and we will need to make choices around what and how we do things.

The council is currently running a consultation, asking residents to nominate any non-statutory service they think could be cut. These could include keeping parks clean, community safety and CCTV funding, community centers or the Harlequin Cinema & Theatre in Redhill.

Across the border into Tandridge, the provisional grant settlement for 2011/12 is down by just under £500,000, a reduction of 12%. The district council described the cut as “higher than expected”. A spokeswoman said: “When the council also takes into account reduced income from investments, planning and other fees, together with other commitments, the total estimated saving for next year is £1.3m from a net budget of £11.5m.

Spelthorne Borough Council still needs to find another £500,000 of savings, with a 16.5% reduction in its government grant. A spokesman said: “While the council has planned for a cut in its formula grant by making redundancies, and increasing partnership working where there is the potential, it still leaves us with a gap of about £0.5m and further savings will have to be found.”

Runnymede Borough Council said its £1.3m grant cut for 2011/12 made it “one of the worst hit local authorities in Surrey”. In a joint statement, council leader, Cllr John Furey, and chief executive Paul Turrell said: We will be forced into savings of a further £750,000 on top of our current savings plan of £2.5m. “We will now work with staff and councilors to produce a potential list of savings [cuts].

So What’s To Be Done? None of us voted for these measures, and they are in no way fiscally necessary. Whilst local services are about to be devastated, banks which are partly owned by the public are making record profits again. Bankers are receiving record bonuses again, totaling billions of pounds. These bonuses are from the public finances given to the banks last year to shore up a system that doesn’t work. We even have the bizarre situation in which the government is issuing bonds to the banks, who are then charging the government over-the-top interest rates for the bonds that they’ve bought with our money. 

TUC Demo Against The Cuts: Defend the welfare state! The only answer we can give to the government is on the streets. The TUC has called a demonstration against the cuts to public services for the 26th March. This will truly be a historic day, making the Poll-Tax demonstrations of the ’90s and the strikes of ’85-’86 pale in comparison.

It will be the most important date for a decade. It will completely change the face of British society. Without a large turn-out the welfare state will be dismantled and we will have an American type situation in which healthcare, education and services will only be for the wealthy in society- whilst the workers, those who produce the wealth in society, are left to rot.

A large turn-out will rock the very foundations of the government. It will stop it in its tracks. The government will either reverse many of its policies or it will fall. The TUC hasn’t called an all out National Demonstration like this since 1926!- And that ended in a general strike. Many union branches, who have never organised coaches to a demonstration before, are already booking three, four, and up to a half dozen.

It is essential that every able-bodied person makes the effort to be at this historic demonstration. Every single person counts in this historic battle to save the welfare state.

In order to secure your subsidised bus ticket at only £2.00 return, email guildfordagainstfeesandcuts@yahoo.co.uk -OR- visit  http://www.saveourservic.es  Use the paypal donation button to pay £2.00 and write “for bus” in the name field. (Together with your name of course).

Please join the Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/manage/updates.php?id=167151436659040&sent=1&e=0#!/event.php?eid=178381258861986

Together we can bring down this government, but if we all leave it to someone else – well, the consequences are unthinkable

The time and place where the busses will depart from will be confirmed nearer the time. – But the buses are filling up fast, so don’t delay in booking your ticket.

You can find out about local events against the cuts by joining Guildford Against Fees And Cuts Facebook page

Pamphlet on the cuts by the TUC – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/tuc-cuts-pamphlet.pdf

Pamphlet on the cuts by the PCS union – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4015_nc_pamphlet1.pdf

Pamphlet: Public Spending Myths by Unison – Read here:
https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/public-spending-myths.pdf

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