Budget gloom for police and council

COUNCIL and police leaders in North Somerset have hit out at the Government over funding issues.

North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton has criticised Westminster officials who have delayed confirming how much money the unitary authority will receive for the 2013/14 financial year.

An announcement was expected to be made by the Government this week, but instead will be made in January.

Cllr Ashton said: “The severe funding cuts we face are challenging enough, but it doesn’t help us to consider budget allocations for the year ahead when we still don’t know the final figures.

“We are anticipating having to find savings of �13.5million in the year ahead, but the information we received this week, plus the uncertainty around the figures still to be shared, means the amount could be as much as �15million.

“We will continue into the new year with our budget preparation work as the council needs to set its final budget in February. However, some considerations will be delayed while final figures are awaited.

“The bottom line remains that we are fully expecting the years ahead to be increasingly difficult, and, given further Government cuts in 2014/15, will be worse than we’d originally thought.”

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The Government was meant to this week outline how much each council and police force will receive but the figures will now not be released until next month.

Sue Mountstevens, the new Police Crime Commissioner following her election in November, said Avon and Somerset Constabulary is continuing to be underfunded.

Last month she lobbied Home Secretary Teresa May for more money, which she said is currently being channelled to other police forces.

This week it was provisionally announced that Avon and Somerset Constabulary will receive �177.3m for the next financial year. The exact figure will be released in January.

Ms Mountstevens said the estimate was in keeping with her expectations but said the loss of money to other forces was the equivalent of losing 450 police officers.

She added: “It is disappointing that the response to the consultation on the unfair funding formula, which sees Avon and Somerset miss out on �20million, has been postponed until the next comprehensive spending review (2015/16).

“So once again our area will continue to miss out on money it is assessed to need.”