On Tuesday 08 February 2011, Manchester City Council outlined detailed plans of its £109 million in cuts that it will make during the coming financial year. The City Council state that they are being forced into making these substantial cuts by a dramatic reduction in central government support. A further withdrawal of central funding is forecast for the 2012/13 financial year compelling the City Council to make additional savings of £170 million.
Sir Richard Leese, City Council Leader, describing the cuts to the BBC on 08 February 2011, said: "Putting this budget together has involved the most difficult, and in many ways, most unpalatable process I have been involved in since I was first elected to the Council..." and to emphasise his point went on: "Manchester is the fourth most deprived local authority area in the country but is among the top five hardest hit local authorities."
The City Council was well aware that even under a Labour administration, further savings would require to be made. The Council had previously made savings of £55 million since 2009 and, anticipating less generous central funding from a Conservative government, had thought that an additional £96 million planned cuts to the City's Budget would be sufficient.
Sir Richard did not even attempt to conceal his anger and frustration with the Coalition at their lack of financial support for Manchester, laying the blame squarely at Westminster's door. The Government's forced "front-loading" of the cuts, so that once a service is gone, it's gone for good, didn't help matters either.
To better understand the scale of the problem facing the Council in identifying savings, one just needs to look at the City's accounts which will be presented to the Council Executive on Wednesday 16 February 2011. The City's Resources are estimated at £581.456 million for 2011/12 and £542.590 million for 2012/13. Of these totals, Government Support is £378.209 million and £337.463 million for each of these years respectively.
However, the planned Calls on Resources for these same years is figured at £677.788 million and £694.353 million amounting to a Total Budget Shortfall of nearly £109 million in 2011/12 and almost £170 million in 2012/13, once other settlement and balancing figures through "Additional Savings Requirement" are taken into account.
A number of news bulletins lead on the fact that the City will close all its public toilets bar one as a savings measure but probably of more importance to Manchester's 483,000 citizens will be the loss of two swimming pools, youth and Surestart centres in relatively deprived areas and five smaller libraries. It is hoped that the youth and work of the Surestart centres will be transferred to the voluntary sector as much as possible.
Further savings will be made by no longer cleaning the City's streets at night and general waste collections will be done fortnightly instead of weekly. Parking charges will rise and be levied seven days per week. Leisure centres and a sailing centre will probably have to be sold or closed and all functions and events are likely to be scaled back if not cancelled altogether.
Two thousand people will lose their jobs, some 17 per cent of the total City payroll. As much as possible, this will be done through voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement. Some 41 per cent of those earmarked for redundancy fill management positions.
The most contentious cuts to Manchester's Budget which is due to be ratified at a full Council meeting on 09 March 2011, are those to the Children's Services and Adult Services Directorate. Children's Services will be slashed 26 per cent, £45 million, although the budget for vulnerable children will be increased. There will be a cutback of 21 per cent, £39.5 million, in the budget of the Adult Services Directorate with many resources now supplied free, being charged for.
One problem facing not just Manchester but many communities in less prosperous areas, is that councils have taken on roles that are more than their statutory obligations, to fill what many of them perceive to be gaps in central government services. Seen as desirable initially, many of these services have become an assumed right. This has happened over quite a considerable time and only now, in our current austere circumstances is the problem coming to light
An example can be found in Manchester's Directorate of Adults introduction. We are told that the Directorate "...covers a broad agenda that goes beyond traditional social care...The Directorate's vision is ambitious and includes Independent adults who are socially and economically included in the community; who are able to parent well and provide good role models to children in their early years; who chose a healthy lifestyle and where mental health is recognised as being as important as physical health..." There are other references about helping those who lead chaotic lives.
All a bit subjective and rather much of the "nanny" state for many people no doubt, There is though in this Report of Resolution document that will first be reviewed on 16 February 2011, an admission that people will have to take responsibility and do more for themselves in future. That will not just be applying to Manchester but the whole of the UK for some years to come!