‘This isn’t a good news story’: Manchester’s bleak warning over updated budget options

Cuts to Manchester City Council services such as mental health charities and lollipop patrols could be less severe than originally feared thanks to a £11million windfall announced this morning.

The council’s receipt of the £11million interim dividend from its stake in Manchester Airport in December prompted the update on November’s initial budget options.

Savings of £59million needed to be found in the next year, according to the council in November.

They warned 40 school crossing patrols could be scrapped, free swimming could be cut for the young and old and the £300,000 council tax ‘safety net’ could be slashed by two thirds.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This is not a good news story – it’s almost £50million of cuts in 2015/16 rather than almost £60million – but the extra money through our stake in the airport has at least allowed us to look again at the budget options we had announced in November.

“The picture has changed and we want to give people the most up-to-date information. We still need to hear their views which will inform some of the difficult decisions we still have to take around the forthcoming budget.” 

A redesigned community grants scheme predicted to save £320,000 is now being considered rather than the council’s original proposal that all cash grants for community projects were scrapped.

Advice services across the city could now have their funding cut by £615,000 rather than the £960,000 originally suggested.

Free swimming for the under-16s and over-60s is no longer at risk of being removed, and instead of the 40 out of 95 school crossing patrol reductions initially anticipated, each crossing will now be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

The cuts put charities and voluntary groups like Women’s Aid and the Citizens Advice Bureau – which had been facing a potential 40% drop in funding – in danger of being forced to close centres.

While £2million from the interim dividend will be set aside to support the 2016/17 budget, the council have announced their intention not to set a full budget until after the general election due to uncertainty about future funding from central government.

Manchester is among the hardest hit places in the country, with the council’s spending power cut by almost 10% in the latest round of budget reductions.

The city centre has seen its funding per home cut by £253.76 – the highest amount in Greater Manchester – compared with £62.57 in Trafford and as little as £14.81 per dwelling in the South East. 

The main budget consultation for 2015-17 was launched on November 26. Anyone wanting to share their opinion on the budget options has until February 18 to do so. More information can be found here.

Image courtesy of Sean Fenney, with thanks

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