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Derbyshire council claim multi-million-pound savings aimed at avoiding bankruptcy are not “cuts” and will see services maintained or improved 

In a Derbyshire County Council meeting on Monday, councillors scrutinised the authority’s budget plans for the upcoming year, with £33 million to cut by the end of March and a further £40 million to cut in the 2024 financial year.

This level of savings is based on the assumption that the authority approves a maximum council tax increase of 4.99 per cent, with two per cent ringfenced for adult social care specifically, the council’s finance director said.

Cllr Stuart Swann, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said the measures drawn up in the proposed savings plan were “critical to the financial sustainability of the council”.

Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the council, told the meeting the authority faced a “very, very challenging” situation, but was in a “better position than we were before”.

He said county councils across the country faced a combined overspend next year of £650 million with authorities in a “worsening situation”, with inflation representing a “key driver”.

Cllr Simon Spencer, the council’s deputy leader, said demand in adult social care and children’s services, along with inflation and a pay increase of local government staff was having a “profound impact” and creating a “huge challenge for the organisation”.

He said the authority was continuing to lobby central Government over the issues faced – particularly in relation to children’s services and the cost of placements – with a feeling that discussions were “gaining ground”.

Cllr Spencer said the authority would be able to make the required savings in order to meet its legal requirement to set a balanced budget.

Emma Alexander, the council’s managing director, said the authority faces “significant financial challenges” which are “unprecedented” and “not unique to Derbyshire”.

She said: “The task is difficult because we need to both save money and retain capacity to deliver and it is about getting that balance right.

“The financial challenges we are facing do not leave us with a long list of choices, and they impact either the people of Derbyshire or our own employees.

“The best balance means we would achieve budget sustainability whilst mitigating the impact on the people of Derbyshire and our service users.”

She said the council would be “reducing service delivery” in some areas but not removing services from people using them.

Instead, she said, services would be “designed” to reduce costs and either maintain the same level of provision or to improve on current levels: “achieving the same or better outcomes but at a lower cost”.

Simon Stevens, the council’s executive director for adult social care and health, said: “We have carefully considered our options and I wouldn’t consider our options as cuts. They are not considered cuts. We will continue to meet our obligations.”

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