Tue, 09 Feb 2016
COUNCIL leaders have said that a small government cash windfall announced last night is unlikely to make a big difference to the raft of cuts proposed next year.
West Berkshire Council has been given a small reprieve after the government gave it £1.4m towards softening the blow of the £18.9m cuts.
But it still means the council will have to find £17.5m next year.
During a debate in the House of Commons last night, Local Government Secretary Greg Clark announced that he was offering councils across England £300m of "transitional cash" to ease the pain of the funding cuts.
West Berkshire's share will be £2.8m over the next two years.
Council leader Roger Croft said he was "mildly pleased" with the outcome, but conceded that it was unlikely to make a big difference to its proposals.
The council will still have its revenue support grant - its main source of income from government - cut by 44 per cent.
The council's first phase of cuts - totalling £10.8m - are expected to go ahead as planned this Thursday. They include the closure of children's centres and care homes as well as cuts to 36 other areas of spending.
The second round of cuts, which was expected to be another £8.1m on top of the £10.8m, is now likely to be nearer £6.7m after last night's decision.
Although details of the second phase have not yet been formally announced, the council hinted that it was considering raising council tax by four per cent and closing eight of the district's nine libraries.
Mr Croft refused to speculate on whether th extra money could mean libraries or other services could be saved.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News this morning, Mr Croft said: "I'm not going to speculate because we still need to go through the detail.
"I am mildly pleased and grateful for any softening, but it is not a lot of money. It reduces the savings we have to make from £18.9m to £17.5m, which is still a lot of money."
Newbury MP Richard Benyon, who spoke at last night's debate, said: "I am less unhappy than I was and am grateful that he has listened to our concerns.
"I'm pleased we have got some transitional relief funding."