Cuts will hit ‘vital’ frontline services

Eastwood volunteer bureau staff worried about the cuts. Yvonne Hawthorne treasurer, Susan Bagshaw manager and Jill Poizer transport co-ordinator.
Eastwood volunteer bureau staff worried about the cuts. Yvonne Hawthorne treasurer, Susan Bagshaw manager and Jill Poizer transport co-ordinator.

Eastwood Volunteer Bureau says it fears for the future of its community transport scheme after Nottinghamshire County Council declared a need to shave £154 million from its costs.

The budget-balancing has been labelled by the Labour-run council as its ‘toughest challenge yet’ and will take effect over the next three years.

It has been confirmed the move will hit frontline services.

And already organisations in Eastwood and Kimberley are concerned.

The volunteer bureau gets an annual grant of £16,000 to pay for its transport scheme for the elderly, and manager Sue Bagshaw said if it was taken away it would be ‘a complete mess’.

“Our concern is that we will lose the full £16,000 grant and we will have to look elsewhere for funding, and there’s not a lot about,” she said.

“It would leave us in a complete mess.”

In the last round of cuts, under the previous Conservative administration, the cost for clients using the transport service doubled. Now Mrs Bagshaw is worried this time around it could be scrapped altogether.

Mrs Bagshaw said the transport service was ‘vital’ for the elderly, because they cannot afford taxis and they need to get out and about to socialise.

“We have 310 clients and it would mean that they can’t get out to lunch clubs, medical appointments and so on.

“They have not got the money to be paying for taxis and that’s where we come in and help. They rely on us an awful lot. Sometimes our driver is the only person they see all week.”

The bureau also gets a £2,500 grant for its befriending service – a quarter of its running costs.

Mrs Bagshaw said she has secured the grant for this year, but is now ‘very doubtful’ about getting it next year.

The council said saving £154million will hit frontline services hard.

As a public consultation on the savings was launched, leader of the council, Labour’s Cllr Alan Rhodes, said: “I wish we were launching a budget consultation about improving care for our elderly, creating new opportunities for our young people and fixing our worn-out roads.

“Sadly, that is a long way from being the case and instead we are asking the people to think the unthinkable.

“The council is facing an unprecedented funding crisis due mainly to sustained, damaging cuts in grants from central Government and greater demand than ever before for some of our services.

“It is likely that none of the 500 services we provide to nearly 800,000 people will be immune from reductions, with some potentially stopping all together.

“It is essential, more so than ever, that people take part in The Budget Challenge, tell us where we should prioritise our remaining resources and where savings should be made.”

But Conservative Cllr Philip Owen, from Nuthall, said the controlling Labour group needed to look at a ‘whole new way of running the council’ as opposed to just making cuts to frontline services.

“If we were in control we would be looking at the way the council operates its services.

“We would be looking at out-sourcing many of the services delivered in-house,” he said.

“We out-sourced work for children’s centres and drove out £5million worth of savings, and at the same time improved the service for people.

“It requires not just a tinkering and chopping frontline services, but a whole new way of looking at how the council operates.”

For the next 19 weeks, residents and businesses will be asked for their views.

Visit www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/budget or join the debate at Facebook/Nottinghamshire and Twitter @nottscc using the hashtag #NottsBudget. If you are not online, call customer services on 0300 500 80 80.