A MISSION to cut millions of pounds from Swindon Borough Council’s budgets has been achieved.

In late 2017 the council set out its Swindon Programme, which was designed to save £30m from its spending in 30 months – with a deadline of March 2020.

Now council bosses say that has been accomplished. It has come at the cost of at least 250 jobs – although that’s some way short of the 400 losses mooted when the council first said it need to make the cuts

The Conservative administration’s deputy leader, and cabinet member for finance, Russell Holland said: “Against a backdrop of reduced government funding and an increase in demand for statutory services such as adults’ and children’s social care, we, like many local authorities across the country, had to make some difficult financial decisions.

“We achieved these necessary savings while maintaining a high standard of public services, caring for some of our most vulnerable people and ensuring Swindon’s economy continues to thrive.

“Over the coming years we will continue to develop the council into a modern, efficient and effective organisation.”

Since 2017 the council’s net expenditure on all its activities has actually risen – from £162m in 2016-17 to £174m in 2017-18 and £206m in the past financial year, ending in March 2019.

But that’s because its costs are climbing. The savings achieved mean the rise is £30m less than it would have been had the cuts and efficiencies not been made.

Its general fund spending on day-to-day operations is where most of the savings have been made. These have risen much more slowly, from £140m in 2017-18, to a projected £142m by the end of March this year, despite inflation.

But Jim Grant, the leader of the Labour opposition in the council chamber is critical.

He said “The cutting of the £30m has come at a devastating cost to the people of Swindon.

"Increases in deprivation, homelessness and County Lines drug crime is directly related to the cutting of children’s centres, failure to build council houses and the abolition of all forms of youth services.

"Moreover, these cuts have meant that potholes continued to go unfilled, damaged grass verges unfixed, traffic congestion ignored.

“And yet the council appears to have millions to spend supporting private sector schemes such as subsidising infrastructure for the benefit of developers and town centre leisure companies.

“Swindon really does deserve better than this. It’s time this Tory council started to focus spending on council taxpayers' wishes and not use their money for the benefit of their friends in the private sector.”