WHOLE departments may have to be shut down by the council as it attempts to find £38m worth of savings over the next few years, a councillor has said.

Although the council had an underspend of £579,000 in the last financial year and has increased its reserves to £8m from just £2.1m in 2010, Councillor Lynn Worrall told a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet that further cuts in government funding could “close whole departments” after £50m savings had already been made over the last four years.

Councillors were meeting to discuss how to make the most savings with the least impact on residents but leader John Kent said, while the council was in a better position than many, they would have to make some tough decisions against their political inclinations.

He said: “There can be no sacred cows – we’ve to look at every service the council provides and look at how we can provide it differently, more efficiently and whether it’s a service we can no longer provide.”

However, he added: “It’s in our interests to make these tough decisions because, if we don’t, the power to do so will be taken away from us with decisions being made by people who are not necessarily sensitive to the needs of our most vulnerable residents.”

Among the measures discussed were changing waste collection and disposal arrangements, reducing the voluntary sector grant, making savings in contracts with organisations working with learning disabilities and mental health problems, reducing bus subsidies and hiking parking revenue.

However, despite Mr Kent’s insistence on there being “no sacred cows,” Councillor Phil Smith assured the meeting residents’ parking schemes would not be affected and Andrew Smith said there would be no cuts to the Tilbury Ferry subsidy.