Mon, 12 Nov 2018
SOME of the district's most vulnerable residents - including the elderly, the disabled and those with mental health issues and addiction - could be among the hardest hit by the latest round of council cuts.
Due to an increase in demand for services – particularly adult social care - and a further reduction in money from central government, West Berkshire Council is anticipating a shortfall of £7.7m next year.
The majority - just over £7.4m - will come from "becoming a more efficient council", but approximately £295,000 will have to be found via cuts to public services.
Here is a breakdown of the proposals, announced this afternoon:
. To reduce the annual funding to Swanswell substance misuse service from £585,940 to £540,940 (a proposed saving of £45,000 or 8 per cent)
. To cease the annual funding to the Age UK's Handyperson Service - which carries out a range of small household repairs and minor adaptations for older people (a saving of (£19,125 or 100 per cent) - when the contract ends on March 31, 2019
. To cease the annual funding to the Alcohol Screening and Brief Advice Service, which provides people with an opportunity to reduce the harm that excessive drinking causes to their health and wellbeing (a saving of £21,300 or 100 per cent)
. To cease the annual funding to the cancer rehabilitation programme (the council currently subsidises a programme of exercise classes for individuals living with and beyond cancer, at a cost of £8,290 per year
. To reduce the annual funding to Eat4Health - a 12 week, group based, weight management course that is available free of charge to individuals in West Berkshire who are over 16 years of age, and have a body mass index (BMI) of over 25 - from £56,575 to £40,000 (a saving of £16,575 or 29 per cent)
. To reduce the annual funding to Get Berkshire Active (Community Based Leisure and Recreational Activities programme) from £90,641 to £50,641 (a saving of £40,000 or 44 per cent) when the current contract ends on 31 March 2019.
. To reduce the annual funding to the Mencap Family Advisor Service, which works with people with learning disabilities and their parents, carers and families to help them access the services and support available to them, from £15,750 to £12,750 (a proposed saving of £3,000 or 19 per cent)
. To cease subsidising the current Mental Health First Aid training programme, which helps people to learn how to assist someone with mental health issues at an annual cost of £8,500, and to deliver the training through a 'West Berkshire Wellbeing' traded service
. To reduce the annual funding to Relate, a charity providing relationship support throughout the UK, from £6,468 to £4,968 (a saving of £1,500 or 23 per cent)
. To reduce the annual funding to Smokefreelife, which provides a range of support, including one-to-one or group sessions over 12 weeks and a free weekly supply of Nicotine Replacement Therapy from £201,100 to £101,100 (a proposed saving of £100,000 or 50 per cent)
. To reduce the annual funding to the Special Needs Advice and Counselling Support Services (SNACS) from £10,000 to £8,000 (a saving of £2,000 or 20 per cent)
. To reduce the annual funding to the Supported Employment Scheme for People with Disabilities from £60,000 to £45,000 (a proposed saving of £15,000 or 25 per cent)
. To reduce the annual funding to the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire from £20,028 to £15,028 (a saving of £5,000 or 25 per cent)
. The introduction of charges for advice on planning and transport policy
Residents are invited to read West Berkshire Council’s proposals and explain any impact on them before decisions are made in the coming months.
Details of the proposals can be found online at www.westberks.gov.uk/budgetproposals
The six week public consultation is open until Sunday, December 23.
The funding the local authority has received from the Government has fallen from £24m in 2012 to zero next year and next year West Berkshire Council will have £128m to spend on services supporting communities across the district.
The council says is addressing this challenge by generating new income where it can, by becoming a more efficient council and in some cases changing the way services are delivered.
Speaking ahead of the consultation, council leader Graham Jones said:“Every year our communities are asking more from the services we provide but we are receiving less money to deliver those services.
"To give some context to this, a grant worth £24m from the Government to us six years ago has been phased out while we have seen a significant increase in demand for adult social care.
"I’m proud of our track record supporting vulnerable residents not only when they are elderly but throughout their lives. It’s the right thing to do and makes a real difference to them and their families.
“However, changes to funding and demand mean we are continually having to look at what we do and how we do it. Next year we will again have to find ways to save money or generate income if the council is to live within its means.
"Most of this will come from within the organisation but inevitably some will affect frontline services. I hope residents will look at our proposals for the year ahead and have their say before we sit down and make our decisions in the New Year.”
Responses to the consultation and the decision made by West Berkshire Council will be published at www.westberks.gov.uk/budgetproposals in due course.
The budget for 2019/20 is due to be considered by the executive committee at 5pm on Thursday February 14 and by full council at 6.30pm on Tuesday, March 5.
Both meetings are due to be held at the council offices in Market Street, Newbury and are open to the public.