Spending Review: The reaction in Essex

After the Government revealed how it intends to reduce the country's debt, Heart's getting the reaction to the spending cuts in Essex.

The Chancellor George Osbourne has outlined the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) as the Coalition tries to save £83 billion by 2015.

Essex County Fire & Rescue

Over the four year period covered by the Review, the reduction to their grant, which makes up around half of the overall spend for fire and rescue authorities, will be 25 per cent.

In real terms for ECFRS, this will mean a 12-13 per cent reduction in budget, amounting to some £7.6m.

Chief Fire Officer David Johnson “We are disappointed, this is not good news for Essex. The level of cuts will mean significant change for the Service. The Government has highlighted seven areas where they believe inroads can be made. These are: the introduction of flexible staffing arrangements, improved sickness management, pay restraint and recruitment freezes, shared services and back office functions, improved procurement, sharing chief officers and other senior staff and voluntary amalgamations between fire and rescue authorities.

Clearly we need to sit down and apply our pre-planning to this level of cut but we have a short period of time to consider all of our options now. A number of areas are still under review, what we need to do now is sit down and find our way through this.”


Essex Police

Essex Police - who've already made changes like sharing resources with other forces like Kent - believe they'll have to save a figure in the region of approximately £50 million by 2014.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Bliss said: "The Chief Constable has said before that we will have to make major changes to the way that we organise policing in Essex in the coming years. As more than 80% of our budget is spent on officer and support staff salaries, there will inevitably be less staff employed by us as we move forward to work in a climate of tighter budgets.  We are currently working on a completely new Blueprint for policing and are taking the opportunity fundamentally to re-design all aspects of how we deliver our services.”

The force has made savings of £17million in the past two years, but says there is room to reduce spending further without affecting the high standards of local policing.


NHS East of England

Key NHS promises have been abandoned or could be watered down and several pledges made by the previous Labour government have been scrapped, including free prescriptions for people with long-term conditions.

An NHS East of England spokesperson said: "Overall the NHS budget will increase by 0.4% in real terms until 2014/15. This increase in real terms growth includes commitments for additional investment to support social care, expanding access to talking therapies and a new cancer drugs fund. The settlement will allow NHS in the east of England to maintain the quality of services to patients."

"Despite this real terms growth the NHS budget will still have to stretch further than ever before. NHS organisations in the east of England have already begun a wide-ranging efficiency drive to make at least £1.5 billion of efficiency savings to meet the increasing costs of an ageing population, new treatments and new services."


Councils have been told they're facing budget cuts of 7.1% per year for four years; up to 2014 – this means a total reduction of 28.4%. But they won't be able to finalise their budget until their grants are confirmed by the Department for Communities and Local Government...and that won't be before next month.

We've been speaking to each Essex authority to get their initial reaction to the spending review and will put it here as soon as we have it.

Basildon District Council

Leader of Basildon Council Tony Ball said: "We have an impressive track record in delivering Value for Money and will not falter on this but understand residents will be looking to us to make tough decisions whilst minimising the impact on frontline services."

"Good money management means we have already started significant work in responding to this cut in funding, such as impressive efficiency measures and doing more for less, but we cannot hide from the fact that this review means there is still work to be done."

Braintree District Council

Councillor Graham Butland, Leader of the Council, said: “These cuts in funding confirm that Braintree District Council needs to make radical savings of around £5 million over the next four years – our current annual running costs are £18.9 million a year. Although over the last four years we have achieved £4 million in savings, squeezing out further savings of this scale will be tough and involve making some difficult decisions."

“The Council has been planning for this eventuality over a number of months and so are currently in the midst of a thorough review of all our services, developing proposals to achieve the necessary savings. We are looking at what services we have to provide (statutory), what services we choose to provide (discretionary) and those services that support the running of an organisation like ours. I believe that inevitably there will be some tough and unpopular decisions to be made."

“The Council is actively considering opportunities and efficiencies that can be achieved by working together with other local councils by merging services; as well as discussing with other public, voluntary and private sector bodies ways to make services more efficient, based on what customers in an area want to see."

Brentwood Borough Council

Leader of Brentwood Council Louise McKinlay: "Although it is too early to say what specific impact the government cuts will have on Brentwood, as a Council we know that we need to deliver more cost effective services and in order to do this, we need to adopt some new ways of working.  We are looking to strengthen and increase our partnership working arrangements with other local authorities and across other  public sector bodies. There is no denying that it will be a long and difficult journey for all local authorities and further tough decisions need to be made.

However, despite the challenges, this is also a positive time for local government. Increased freedom for councils to make decisions and greater autonomy to do what is necessary to deliver modern and efficient front line services that the public want mean that this is also an exciting time for Councils across the Country." 

Colchester Borough Council

Councillor Paul Smith, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Diversity, said: “We had anticipated the risk of a more severe reduction in Government grants, and had drawn up contingency plans to prepare for that eventuality.

Progress has been made to identify potential budget savings and revenue enhancements, a further £0.5m will be delivered via fundamental service reviews (FSR) across the Council and shared services opportunities and the deletion of certain vacant posts, reduced overtime and publicity, will support this further.

The Council also plans to generate income to try and fill the budget gap. Further budget options have also been identified and these are currently being assessed in more detail, including the consideration of savings from ongoing FSRs of Street Services and museums and arts services.”


Harlow Council

Leader of Harlow Council Andrew Johnson said: "We warned recently that there are tough times ahead and we have been making plans to meet the financial challenges we will face. We have made hard and painful decisions in the past due to financial factors outside of our control and we will do so again. It's going to be tough but we are prepared to continue to make careful levelheaded decisions that seek to protect the services everyone values where we can."

"All Councils are going to have to make tough choices and do their bit to help reduce the national deficit.  We will do all we can to maintain and protect the services most important to local people."


Rochford District Council

The Leader, Councillor Terry Cutmore, said: "The announcements made in today's Comprehensive Spending Review have given us an idea of the scale of the savings we have to make. Although we now have a little more clarity, it will not be until we receive the details of our specific grant subsidy at the start of December that the overall picture will become clearer.

 Council members and senior officers have been working very hard over the last six months to identify potential options in the light of anticipated Government announcements on spending and, after what has happened today, members and officers will now begin the task of working through them in more detail to minimise any impacts for our residents. No decisions will be taken on where reductions will be made without careful consideration as to the likely impact on the District's residents, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.
Rochford District Council has always had an excellent track record in offering value for money. For example, this year, we are on course to cut an extra £600,000 from our current expenditure."


Tendring District Council

Nigel Brown, Communications Manager, said: "At this time we are still very much working towards our forecasts within our financial strategy and planning for reductions on that basis."

"Once we get the detailed figures – expected at the end of November or early December – we will be able to review the situation and make more focused decisions about the actual reductions that will be necessary."


Thurrock Council

Leader, Councillor John Kent says, "The almost 30 per cent cuts to local government announced today are an attack on our community, driven by discredited ideology, not fiscal prudence."

"Thurrock has taken a very unfair hit. We have already been subjected to £4 million in cuts this year. This is going to have serious knock-on effects for local public services which all our residents, including children, families and the elderly, rely upon."

"It is all very well for the government to devolve power to local government, but if they do not fully devolve budgets at the same time, they simply spread the blame for the cuts without responsibility."

"There will be a sting in the tail of this cuts package that will only fully hit home over the next few months. As, along with all other local authorities, we won't get our grant settlement until the end of the year, some will lose out more than others and I fear we will, once again, be one of those areas hit hardest."