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Flintshire County Council must cut ‘front-line services’ to save £12m

FLINTSHIRE council chiefs have warned they need to save £12m in the next financial year.

Chief executive Colin Everett told the authority’s executive committee it was ‘impossible to safeguard all front-line services’ at a meeting at County Hall this week, and said the council could no longer afford to run all of its assets.

The authority has identified £9.449m of savings across all areas of the budget, which would still leave a projected shortfall of £2.687m.

Mr Everett said: “We cannot shield front-line services in their entirety – it’s impossible to make £12m of savings and protect all of them.”

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, the authority’s executive member for learning, admitted the education budget will be facing cuts.

He added: “There is little room for manoeuvring and sadly, the axe must fall.”

Smaller libraries are also at risk, and the council’s social services department is facing heavy cuts.

Consultations with trade unions are already under way over employees whose jobs could be under threat as a direct result of funding cuts.

Flintshire is set to get its final budget settlement for the next financial year from the Welsh Assembly Government on February 2, and officers say no cuts have yet been finalised.

Despite the challenges facing the council, leader Cllr Arnold Woolley said the aim was to limit next year’s council tax rise to be between 3% and 3.5% to ‘help the pockets of the taxpayers’.

Mr Everett said: “Many people value the services we are looking to change and we realise that.

“I know people want to keep the status quo but we have to look at the wider picture. The size of the challenge, compared to some other councils in Wales and particularly England, is much more manageable.”

After the meeting, Cllr Bernie Attridge, deputy leader of the opposition, criticised the council for including the building of a new headquarters in its future spending programme – at a cost of £20m.

He said: “It is scandalous that spending £20m on a new build at County Hall is even being talked about when the council is considering closing libraries and taking services away from our most vulnerable people.”

But Mr Everett said the project was ‘merely aspirational’ and there were no plans to move it forward at any time in the near future.