PEMBROKESHIRE County Council will need to “get smarter” to deliver services in the face of “an almost perfect storm” of budget cuts and council tax rises, Council Leader Jamie Adams said at a special briefing on Monday, August 3.

The council is facing financial reductions of £73.7million from now ‘til 2020; yearly cost reductions have been planned at £10.1m, £13.5m, £9.4m, £8.7m, and £8.7m; while council tax increases of £2.2m, £1.9m, £2m, £2.1m, and £2.2m are predicted.

Cllr Adams said the cuts would “change the face of public services for generations to come,” adding: “It’s about doing things differently; short of just cutting services today I think we need to be a little bit smarter in terms of how we effectively almost put a line in the sand and almost build a council for the future.”

He said savings in the education budget alone of five to 10 per cent could be made through “smarter buying”.

One of the costs savings would be to investigate communities, including town and community councils, taking on a greater role in local facilities.

Cllr Adams said: “I think we have to be realistic with ourselves and honest with the public. We need to be honest about our ability to provide services in the future; if we say we are struggling to provide these services is it passing the buck? I could be accused of that, but ultimately we’re trying to find a solution to a problem that’s not of our making.

“There are a number of communities who are far better placed to do things than us trying to do this top-down thing throughout the county.

“It’s not about pulling the rug from under people, it’s an effective process that allows people a bit of confidence in taking things on, it isn’t about the council walking away from it.”

He admitted that current “bloody unpopular” savings could be “small fry” in comparison to further measures, with one idea using less buildings; having more services in those used.

“Get rid of them, even knock them down; as long as they aren’t costing us they are not affecting services; there are some services where 30-40 per cent of the cost is the building, there’s your 35 per cent saving.”

On staffing, he conceded: “I think it’s pretty inevitable there will be less people working in the authority in five years time.”

However, he stressed the council was “not in panic mode” and it was hoped new opportunities could be found in greater flexibility for existing staff, potentially with links with other organisations, and even private businesses.

Cllr Adams also said the county council may even hire consultants to advise it.

“We are going to get smarter and more business orientated; part of this is taking an outside view, getting someone in to look at the council holistically, recognising where savings can be made; there’s nothing bad in a fresh pair of eyes.”