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City council must play a guessing game over cuts over lack of government detail
A DRAFT version of fresh city council spending cuts is forecasting big decreases in the government funding which goes towards paying for Worcester's services.
Worcester City Council could - in a worst case scenario, see a key part of a cash grant it gets from government slashed by up to 40 per cent.
If that were the case, city council finance chiefs would need to find an extra £3.25 million in budget savings by April 2018.
The council has already cut £6 million, in the preceding four years.
Worcester council is in charge of services like bin collections, maintaining the city's parks and street sweeping.
Even in a best case scenario, the city council will have less money to spend on services than they originally forecast, according to council leader councillor Simon Geraghty and finance chief councillor Andy Roberts.
In a proposal of the council's next draft budget and five-year spending plan, released today, there could be a reduction in the Formula Grant money the council receives from goverment of up to 40 per cent, over the next four years.
Council leaders have done a draft budget, and worked on the slightly better 'middle-ground' assumption the city will only see that grant cut by 20 per cent, between now and 2017/18.
The work is all based on assumptions, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's autumn statement - in which council's will find out how much cash they will get, is not due until early December.
Coun Geraghty said there were also current council budget shortfalls to consider, because decreasing council revenue from items like parking charges were down because of the recession leaving holes in the balance sheet.
Para-phrasing the former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, coun Geraghty summed up the lack of detail from the government saying "the problem we have is that there are known unknowns, and unknown unknowns."
Key among the unknowns is the council simply has not been told by government how much money it will get from business rates repayments, or how much cash it will need to balance the council tax benefit payments.
Business rates form a large part of the council's net operating budget, and any variations there could have a big impact on the savings the council will need to find.
However, the council does now know it will have next year's council tax freeze paid for - if the option is taken up in the final budget in February.
Coun Geraghty added said: "We have an excellent track record of reforming services and protecting frontline services.
"Now this [draft] will go out for debate [by cross party committee] and the agreed budget comes through in February.
"We will know much more of the detail after the Chancellor's announcement in December."