Stoke-on-Trent City Council plans £21m spending cuts

Trudie Birch, 92, spent four weeks at St Michael's care centre

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Children's centres, residential care and support to get people into work in Stoke-on-Trent could all be affected as the city council looks to save £21m next year.

The local authority has also warned that up to 250 jobs could be lost at the council.

Other staff are expected to face a pay freeze for the fourth year in a row.

A six-week public consultation has opened on the 2013-14 budget proposals, which include a council tax freeze.

'Tough targets'

The results are due to go before the full council on 28 February.

The Labour-led council said frontline services would be affected, due to "tough savings targets" imposed by the government and cuts to grant funding.

Council leader Mohammed Pervez said the government cuts were the equivalent to almost £200 a household.

"Despite our best attempts, the sheer magnitude of these cuts makes it impossible for us to keep all services running," he said.

Analysis

Some £56m has already been cut from Stoke-on-Trent City Council's budgets since the government's Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, so making further cuts will be much more difficult.

The council has always insisted it got a raw deal from government - it claims the city has been the eighth worst-treated unitary authority.

Leader Mohammed Pervez says the eventual goal now is for the city to become "independent" of government by generating more income locally.

But judging by his criticism of the government's part in these cuts, any talk of independence is a long way off.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said the most vulnerable people would be protected by focusing cuts as far as possible in back-office posts, by selling council buildings and land, and making better use of technology.

Land at Stoke and Spode is already on the market, along with sites at City Waterside, Waterloo Road and Wellington Road.

A move of the council headquarters from Stoke town centre to the city centre in Hanley is costing £40m, but expected to save £2m a year, the council said.

But leader of the opposition, City Independent councillor, Dave Conway said the move should be scrapped to save money.

"It's costing £40m to move the Civic Centre up to Hanley but that's with a £17m interest payment. Imagine what £17m would do for this city," he said.

The council is also expected to cut support schemes for new businesses and £400,000 from programmes to get people back into work.

'Out of sight'

A separate review has been ordered into adult social care across the city as the council looks to make £1m savings in the sector.

The proposals already on the table include closing St Michael's, an elderly person's centre in Chell, and providing more care in people's own homes.

Mohammed Pervez Council leader Mohammed Pervez said government cuts were equivalent to almost £200 per household

Andy Day, from the North Staffordshire Pensioner's Convention, said the moves would "leave elderly people vulnerable".

"Care out in the community is stretched as it is and the trouble is these people in their own homes are out of sight and out of mind," he said.

"We want the council to guarantee that nobody is going to be put at risk as a result of these changes, and I don't believe they can say that."

92-year-old Trudie Birch spent four weeks at St Michael's as part of her rehabilitation after breaking her leg in a fall.

She said: "I think it's a tragedy because the centre has given me confidence and helped me to walk again. I can't really praise it enough."

"People in there are very concerned about their jobs and we hope someone will see sense and recognise the good job they do."

A review has also been launched into early years services, which the local authority hopes can contribute £1.7m towards its targets.

Mr Pervez refused to rule out closures among its children's centres, and said it would be inappropriate to comment until the review was complete.

He said the council had been struggling to fund free nursery places for some 1,000 two-year-olds "from a declining budget".

The council said a separate consultation with teachers and parents into changes to early years services would be launched in the next few months.

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