Council approves frontline spending cuts at annual budget meeting

Sunderland City Council has passed its annual budget.
Sunderland City Council has passed its annual budget.

Sunderland councillors have approved a budget which will mean spending cuts to frontline services.

They also agreed to implement a council tax freeze and an £81m capital investment programme.

The decision was made at the council’s annual budget meeting at the civic centre, and follows last month’s cabinet meeting where the initial proposals were outlined.

Members of the Labour group, which controls the council, say the spending cuts are unavoidable due to a £19m reduction in the Revenue Support Grant provided by central government.

But Conservatives in the opposition say that the reduction is necessary due to overspending and ‘waste’.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “Local government is one of the biggest casualties of the government’s austerity measures.

“The government has transferred significant risk to local authorities.”

He went on to say: “It is a fact that we won’t be able to do everything as we did before, and frontline changes are unavoidable.”

But he added: “We remain committed to prioritising service provision to protect the most vulnerable.”

However, Conservative leader Robert Oliver said: “The council has successfully managed the cuts, so it really should be complaining about them.

“You can’t maintain the position that you extend the freeze in council tax and then complain about the cuts. You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

The council has cut spending by more than £100m over the past three years, and expect to cut a further £113million over the next three budgets.

Previous cuts to revenue spending have lead to the closure of nine of Sunderland’s libraries and a total of 2,845 staff axed.

Unison, the trade union which represents council employees, has previously said it would work to prevent job losses.

A statement released on behalf of the Unison Sunderland’s branch said: “The local authority is being squeezed by cuts in central government funding.

“Unison is campaigning against these cuts and continues to press the authority to protect front-line services.”

Councillor Watson said: “We take the opportunity to thank our colleagues in the trade unions for helping us to deal with these spending cuts.”

Members of the campaign group Sunderland People’s Assembly held a protest outside the Civic Centre before the meeting.#####

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