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City council approves another raft of service cuts in the face of £50m deficit

Sunderland City Council is preparing to slash more than £12m from its public services next year as it faces a budget gap of around £50m over the next three years – the latest in a string of local authorities being forced to cut corners in the coming months and years.

The proposals for 2019-20 include around 60 council job cuts, a review of charges for waste collection, and charging for public toilets. But the council has also announced capital funding of £126m to boost investment across Sunderland.

There will also be a review of the council’s children’s services, such as increasing the range of specialist care available, which could see £5m cut. This area has been at the forefront of savings up and down the country, most notoriously in Northamptonshire.

The local authority voted to approve its additional budget proposals for 2019-20 to 2021-22 as its looks to plug the remaining budget gap and has launched a public consultation for the plans.

An initial set of savings were approved as part of the 2017-18 budget proposals, but the council has now identified a remaining funding gap of £12m in 2019-20 and a further £14 savings needed over the two following years.

Other proposed cuts include £1.7m from changes to environment and transport services and ideas such as creating a joint CCTV facility with other councils.

Cabinet secretary Paul Stewart, speaking at Sunderland Civic Centre as reported by Chronicle Live, said: “It's clear that once again we have to make difficult budget cuts.

“There will be difficult decisions to be made if we’re to set a balanced budget which we’re legally required to do so in the new year.”

Despite making a total of £290m in cuts since 2010, the council has announced a further £126m in capital spending up to 2022-23 to boost investment in the city into regeneration and improvements to infrastructure. The additional capital will be spent on construction and regeneration projects, such as £41m on replacing the Civic Centre and £21m to update Sunderland Museum, Winter Gardens and the Central Library.

The council meeting heard that future finances were subject to several external factors, such as government changes to business rates relief and the outcome of Brexit – and members stated that Whitehall funding beyond 2019-20 “remains very uncertain.”

All proposals are subject to the government’s financial settlement for local government, which is due in December.

Image credit - gldburger

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