Sunderland 'straining every sinew' against cuts

Wearside
Aerial photo of Wearside Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

The Leader of Sunderland City Council has said they are 'straining every sinew' to provide basic services, after the Government announced yet more cuts to local councils.

It came after Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that the Department for Communities and Local Government is facing a 10% cut in 2015/16 - the biggest of any department.

Today Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "We now have five children centres instead of the 17 we used to have. We have nearly 1,500 employees less than we used to have."

"Clearly we're having to strain every sinew to provide even our statutory duties so that's how difficult it is."

For Sunderland, the cumulative effect of budget reductions means it will have to save £100m over the next three financial years.

It is proposing closing nine libraries and reducing free school bus travel, among other cost-cutting measures.

Families in Houghton-le-Spring reacted angrily to the idea of their children losing their free bus travel.

Alison Morley, a mother at St Michaels School, said: "They mentioned the cost of £200 a child approximately."

"So for me, that's another £400 a year. But some people with three of four children, asking them to pull that out of their pockets in these times - is really hard."

Another mother, Tanya Farsi, said she had begun campaigning to keep libraries in the Sunderland authority area open.

She said: "Nine libraries all in on fell swoop is huge. It would have a huge impact on the area, on the community feel and vibe that the council are constantly trying to promote."

The Chancellor said the savings would help to move Britain 'out of intensive care' and 'into recovery'.