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North Yorkshire councillors launch consultation on savings

A package of measures aimed at ensuring that North Yorkshire County Council remains on track to achieve millions of pounds in savings as a result of Government funding cuts is go out for public consultation.

Members of the County Council, at their full quarterly meeting, approved a recommendation from the Executive that the consultation process should now begin.

The proposals to be considered include a review of the criteria for access to adult social care, reductions in subsidies for public transport, a review of charges for some social care services, charging for certain services provided at Household Waste Recycling Centres, and a review of transport arrangements for students over the age of 16 attending schools and colleges.

The county council needs to save £92m in the four years ending on 31 March, 2015. It has warned that, following recent announcements by the Government over future funding, it will need to find a further estimated £66m between 2015 and 2019.

The major savings proposals for 2014-15, all of which are subject to a public consultation process, were considered by the full council on 24 July 2013, are:

Social care criteria

North Yorkshire is one of only a handful of authorities in England and Wales which makes social care support available to people judged to have “moderate” or above needs; 87% of authorities intervene when needs are assessed as “substantial.” The proposal is that North Yorkshire will join the majority of authorities in offering services to people with “substantial” needs or higher.

Fairer contributions

At present, most but not all community-based social services are provided on a means-tested basis. The proposal is that in future all such services would be paid for, although still on a means-tested basis to ensure people who cannot afford to pay would still receive the support they need.

Public Transport

The county council spends some £4.4m a year on subsidising the 20% of bus journeys which are not commercially viable. The proposal is to review provision with the aim of reducing the subsidies by £1.1m. In assessing the options, a strategy would be adopted of ensuring that as many communities as possible retain a basic bus service to their nearest market town, and that an “inter-urban” network with a minimum set frequency is maintained.

Household waste recycling services

At present, residents of North Yorkshire are allowed to dispose of construction and demolition material, including soil and rubble, at household waste recycling centres without payment. The cost to the council of disposal of that soil and rubble is £240,000 a year. The proposal is for the introduction of a charge for the disposal of construction and demolition material.

Post 16 transport

The council is looking at various options to reduce the discretionary cost of post-16 transport to schools and colleges by £400,000 a year, ultimately by implementing changes over a three year period. Students can currently purchase a subsidised pass at a maximum price of £350. The proposal is to work with schools and colleges to continue a subsidy but to reduce the net cost to the authority.

Before the current period of austerity began in 2010, the county council spent approximately £500m a year. Since then, the actual and anticipated spending cuts mean the council’s spending power has been reduced by one third.

County Councillor John Weighell, Leader of the Council said:

It is with a heavy heart that I ask for approval for a consultation on these proposals.

This is not a position which any of us on this authority relish – indeed, on the contrary.

But we have to face up to the financial realities which are being imposed upon us, and to take what steps are necessary to ensure that we are able to face the future in as sound and healthy a state as we can possibly achieve.

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