Graham Burgess said Blackburn and other deprived councils in northern England had been particularly badly hit by the government’s comprehensive spending review, announced last week.
They depend heavily on specific grants from Whitehall, most of which are being scrapped and rolled into mainstream government funding for councils.
Burgess said Blackburn with Darwen faced a 30% cut in funding totalling £48m over the next four years, with £12m slashed from specific grants. Most – £29m – will come next year.
“These ‘front-loaded’ cuts mean the reductions will be bigger and come much faster than expected,” Burgess said. “While we are looking at a number of opportunities for staff, such as voluntary redundancies and early retirements as well as deleting vacant posts, it is unlikely we are going to be able to avoid compulsory redundancies given these are very difficult times we face.”
Research by the New Local Government Network has shown that unitary authorities such as Blackburn are more dependent on central government funding than county councils. This leaves them less able to compensate for Whitehall cuts with rises in council tax.
The council has sought to cut management costs by setting up a joint leadership team this year with the borough’s care trust plus, saving £2m a year. This followed the establishment of the care trust plus itself in April, to integrate health and social care commissioning in order to generate efficiencies.
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