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Cumbria Council to cut 1,800 jobs as part of budget savings

Cumbria County Council is to cut 1,800 jobs over the next three years and raise council tax by 1.99% to meet a budget shortfall of £84m.

The council is making the changes to "mitigate the impact of cuts" and protect frontline services, but unions have deemed the losses “horrific” and said they would make delivering services “just about impossible”.

Deputy council leader Cllr Patricia Bell said: “This budget is the most drastic step yet in reducing the size of the organisation, and cutting the back office. Around 80% of the new savings we've identified this year are internal, with only 20% outfacing.

“Around 1,800 council jobs are expected to be lost over the next three years and by 2018 the council will be roughly half the size it was at the start of the decade and this means that we need to work differently, delivering services in new ways, reducing demand for services and getting things right first time. We are reshaping our budgets so they are more locally focused.” 

Unison's North West regional organiser Dave Armstrong told the BBC: "This latest announcement means the county council workforce will have halved in size since 2010, from 10,000 to 5,000.

"This level of cut cannot be made without seriously damaging our local economy and social fabric."

This rise in council tax will be the first in five years. In Cumbria the average council tax paid is Band B, so the increase most taxpayers will pay will be 35p a week. 

“As regards council tax we simply can’t go on freezing this if we want to continue delivering services to the people of Cumbria, who rely of our services. Accepting a further council tax freeze grant would mean having to make far more savage cuts in services than outlined in this plan.” 

The 2015-16 budget agreed by full council delivers £32.6m in savings on top of the £127m already being delivered since 2011. All 50 members of the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition voted in favour, while 25 Conservatives in opposition voted against.

In total the council needs to have saved £211m by 2018. A financial plan detailed in the budget outlines a further £18.6m in savings for 2016 – 2018, but the council still needs to find £33m of currently unidentified savings.

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