By Ian Dipple Thursday 17 October 2013 Updated: 17/10 10:54
BUS services will be slashed, public toilets closed, buildings sold off and home care visits replaced as county council bosses bid to save more than £98million over the next four years.
The measures were announced in response to rising demand and government spending cuts which will see £150million trimmed from Worcestershire County Council’s budget by 2017.
More than £30million needs to be saved in 2014/15 with over £25.1million the following year and £25million the year after.
As well as cuts to services the council will also deliver millions of pounds of savings by renegotiating contracts, cutting back office functions and increasingly becoming a commissioner of services rather than directly providing them.
There will also be more job losses than previously expected. About 1,000 jobs have gone since 2010 and it was expected another 500 would be shed taking the county’s workforce to about 3,000 full-time equivalent posts. But that is now expected to fall further but exactly by how many is not yet known.
Residents have also been warned a council tax rise is likely from next April after three years of bills being put on hold but it is unlikely to be large enough to trigger a referendum.
Council leader Adrian Hardman said while they would not ‘retreat’ to only providing services they are required to by law, it was the end of ‘big money government’ and an impact on frontline services was unavoidable.
"You can always keep on reforming but there are some things that are going to go," he said.
"Reforming things will be difficult but we want to ensure the people of Worcestershire don’t feel the impact too strongly."
Chief executive Trish Haines said they were committed to continuing to support businesses by investing in infrastructure and the economy while protecting the vulnerable.
"We are not raising the threshold to qualify for care so if people qualified for a service last year they are going to qualify this year and next year. Nobody is going to find the door closed on them," she said.
"People will have their needs met but not in the same way.
"There will be no panic and no crises by working through this in a way that gives people reassurance the council knows what they are doing."
Other cost-cutting measures include switching off street lights in residential areas at night and using more energy efficient bulbs, handing parks and open spaces to volunteers to look after, transferring some of the countryside estate to the National Trust or Woodland Trust, introducing parking charges at Worcester Woods Country Park and closing public toilets at all but the major country parks by June 2014.
Cash spent on books for the county's libraries, using more volunteers and self-service machines, reducing residential mental health placements by using community services instead, reviewing sexual health service provision and cutting £30,000 from the county's arts service.
The public will be asked for their views on the plans at a roadshow event in Bromsgrove High Street in November and there will be consultation on specific changes for each of the affected services when proposals are finalised.
The cuts will be discussed by councillors at a meeting next week and cabinet in November before being finalised in February when the budget is set.
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