Heat is on council finances

A LOCAL council leader is warning of hard times ahead as Government cutbacks turn the heat on local authority finances in the region. Cllr James Morrish, Leader of Torridge District Council, said the plight of local authorities could be even worse if they

A LOCAL council leader is warning of hard times ahead as Government cutbacks turn the heat on local authority finances in the region.

Cllr James Morrish, Leader of Torridge District Council, said the plight of local authorities could be even worse if they did not learn to co-operate.

He said his council was expecting anywhere between a 10 per cent and 30 per cent cut in grants it receives from the Government next year.

That would mean, at the worst, a reduction of between �2 million and �3 million, he said.


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The eight district councils in Devon had to look at their options now that Exeter's bid for unitary status was dead in the water following the General Election.

"I don't think people understood what an effect it would have had if Exeter had got its way," Mr Morrish said. "The city is the economic driving force for the rest of Devon.

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"The district councils and the county council now need to talk urgently and look at our options.

"No longer can district councils continue to work in isolation.

"We can stick our heads in the sand and do nothing about the road crash that is coming to local government, or we can prepare for the storm and reduce costs before tragedy happens."

Mr Morrish told the Gazette he would work hard to ensure services to residents and businesses were not affected by cuts.

"The only way to do that is by collaboration and co-operation between local authorities and their partners," he said.

"I am not interested in sitting in an ivory tower. It would be irresponsible to do nothing and wait until something happens.

"We must be prepared to share services with other councils and partners, such as parish councils and the primary care trust.

"If Cornwall Council, for example, can provide a service cheaper than we can, then we should take advantage of it."

Mr Morrish said he was pleased with the relationship his authority had built up with Teignbridge Council, with which it shared a chief executive.

Last week, he and colleagues held another meeting with counterparts on North Devon Council to discuss shared partnership opportunities.

"When the general public and businesses have to tighten their belts, then we as a council must do exactly the same," Mr Morrish said. "When the worst happens, we must make sure we are ready for it.

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