Kirklees Council’s chief has said the public will “sure as hell” notice cuts coming over the next three years.
Adrian Lythgo admitted he could not guarantee council cut backs would not have a negative impact on the health of Huddersfield people, as he addressed doctors and managers at Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (GHCCG).
The candid remarks came as he laid out the stark future of council finances to NHS colleagues at GHCCG governing body.
Mr Lythgo said the public hadn’t really felt the £80m cuts during the recession but felt the cumulative impact of a further £69m cuts by 2018 would be very damaging to their work in public health.
“People think we’ve done it once, so we can do it again,” he said.
“I don’t think the public noticed the cuts of the last three years but they sure as hell will notice this time.”
Mr Lythgo said vulnerable adults and children took up more than 65% of the council’s budget and they needed to find ways of reducing the £168m spend.
The council is proposing to cut the budget for children and adults to £133m by 2018.
“We will prioritise the vulnerable in the first two years but in the third year there’s a real cash gap,” he admitted.
“If that is followed through on I have no idea how we will meet that gap.
And he added: “There are some things I didn’t join the public service to do.”
Mr Lythgo said when the council learned of its diminishing budget two years ago it had begun planning to make its statutory services “as small as possible.”
“We will provide the services we have to,” he said. “We don’t have to fund street lights or sports centres – we could turn them all off.”
Director of Public Health, Dr Judith Hooper, said there was evidence that health inequalities in the north were growing again, after some recovery in the 2000s.
But she said the area was “as on track as it could be” in trying to tackle the huge economic gap for health and wellbeing.