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Councils: "budget figures hide true extent of cuts"
DORSET County Council is the only authority in England to see its spending power increase according to official figures.
But the overall news is grim, with most councils being hit harder than anticipated in their annual settlements.
Although settlements have been cut, the government says some specific grants and income will increase, affecting councils’ spending power.
But councils say what appears to be extra cash is earmarked for the NHS, for example, or new responsibilities.
Whitehall says Dorset’s spending power will increase by 0.25 per cent. The rest are down – Bournemouth by 3.85 per cent, Poole 0.97, Christchurch 4.37, East Dorset 2.69, North Dorset 5.4 and Purbeck 4.78.
Dorset’s settlement drops from £74 million to £65.5m, but it will receive more in other funding.
Cllr Angus Campbell, leader of Dorset County Council, said on the face of it there was some good news for Dorset, especially a £5.2m NHS grant, but it cannot mask the £9m drop.
“In addition, this does not take into account new demands on our budget, such as the growing elderly population and new responsibilities like concessionary bus fares,” he said.
Campaigners battling cuts are due to protest at County Hall this morning. Cllr John Beesley, deputy leader at Bournemouth, said its settlement was down £10 million from £70m last year.
“This is much worse than any of us anticipated and than the government led us to believe,” he said.
The Borough of Poole will receive £30.7m instead of £35m.
Leader Cllr Elaine Atkinson said the spending power figure did not “accurately reflect the overall funding situation” and said: “In real terms this means that on April 1 2011, we will be starting the year with £14.6m less than we started with in 2010/11.”
Christchurch is down from £2.3m to £1.9m, while East Dorset goes from £3.1m to £2.6m.
Purbeck’s cash is down from £3.3m to £2.4m. Leader Cllr David Budd said: “The impact of the cuts is far worse than we feared.”
North Dorset will receive £584,000 less than last year. Leader Cllr Peter Webb said: “This is a hard settlement for us with so many cost reductions having been made already.”
Hampshire County Council will see a cut in its government grant of £31m. Leader Cllr Ken Thornber said the “dramatic reduction in our grant is as bad as we expected”.
New Forest District Council will receive £2.7m less than last year.
Visit our Interactive section for the government's Plain English guide to the settlement and the full breakdown of the spending allocations or click the link below for a .pdf