'At risk' children and elderly set to suffer as town hall cuts bite

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Indy Politics

Child protection and care for the elderly will be threatened by the savage squeeze on town hall funding, council chiefs warned yesterday.

They forecast that up to 100,000 jobs would be scrapped by local authorities struggling to cope with a 28 per cent reduction to their budgets over the next four years.

Other services council chiefs believe are under threat include libraries, museums, swimming pools, leisure centres, street cleaning and road repairs. They are also calling to be allowed to raise more money by raising fees for large planning applications and the renewal of licenses for pubs and clubs.

Baroness Eaton, the chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: "These cuts will hurt. We know this means there will be fewer libraries, more potholes going unrepaired, parks shutting earlier and youth clubs closing."

The LGA sounded the alarm over the impact on children considered to be at risk because the cash allocated for children's services is being reduced by 12 per cent.

The expense of child protection work is rising by 10 per cent a year, it said, following the death of "Baby P" (Peter Connolly) in Haringey in 2007.

Councils are facing the cost of more children being taken into care and more court hearings to determine their future. Stephen Jones, the LGA's financial director, said: "This will make it a challenge for local authorities to fund services such as child protection."

A survey by the Association of Directors of Children's Services found that the number of children referred to social workersbecaue of suspected abuse or neglect jumped by more than 50 per cent in the past three years.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said: "28 per cent cuts across four years will be difficult. But it's about the priority local government is prepared to give – child protection services must be the utter priority."

The LGA also fears a £4bn black hole opening in funding for adult social services, including residential care and home visits for the elderly.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, set aside an extra £2bn for adult social care in the spending review. But council leaders say the cost of looking after a rapidly ageing population will rise by £6bn by 2014-15, with another 370,000 adults requiring care.

Dame Margaret told a meeting of council leaders yesterday that an estimated one in ten of the one million posts in local government would be scrapped. "Some jobs will go in natural wastage, not filling vacancies and voluntary redundancy. But there will be job losses, where real people dedicated in their profession won't be there any more," she said.

The Government insisted last night that frontline services could be protected by councils cutting waste, curbing top pay, sharing services between authorities, improving procurement and being more open about spending.

Grant Shapps, the Local Government Minister, said: "This was a tough but fair settlement. We are giving councils more control over their budgets so they can protect frontline services.

"However in order to achieve this they must cut out the waste and crazy non-jobs and join forces to procure to benefit from economies of scale."