‘Looming vote will colour every decision’

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it will astonish many people to learn that the city can discover another £22 milllion blackhole in its finances – just nine months after identifying an £18m overspend.

That may be a mere two per cent of the council’s overall spending of around £1 billion a year, but it is still a huge amount to save without seriously damaging local services.

Yet no one who follows the usually bone dry subject of local government finance will be the slightest bit surprised by this turn of events.

The scale of the financial crisis facing the city council, and other local authorities, only ever looked likely to increase.

And so it has proved, with the knock-on effects of the Westminster and Holyrood budgets, coupled with soaring fuel and other costs, having a devastating impact on their finances.

With the exception of the on-going trams debacle, there is little, if anything, that could be described as self-inflicted.

But that does not change the fact that the pain will be felt, in the shape of cuts to services, in the Capital.

The tough decisions that this newspaper has long warned about will come thick and fast in the coming months.

Cutting the number of lollipop men and women and axing social work teams in hospitals, as previously proposed but rejected by councillors, will only scratch the surface this time.

Of course, the looming council elections next May will colour every decision that is made between now and then, making, for instance, the proposed closure of half-full city schools a non-starter.

No one wants to see schools closed but it remains to be seen whether the alternative is even less palatable.

A true sporting hero

The exploits of ever-green judo champion Donald Hughes are an inspiration to us all.

The fighting-fit pensioner enjoys life to the full as he continues to pass on his skills to another generation – and it is surely no coincidence that he looks decades younger than his 78 years.

What a contrast with the ugly face of sport that we so often see on television with petulant millionaire sportsmen refusing to play or getting involved in unsavoury off-the-pitch scrapes.

And then there is the spread of steroid abuse that we report on elsewhere in today’s paper.

Any parent looking for a sporting role model for their children should ignore most of today’s big names and point instead to Donald.