Published on

2 October 2023

Help us make the best use of limited funding

With the borough council needing to make difficult budget decisions and ensure a safe financial future, it is seeking residents’ views on how best to balance books and protect services.

Piece of a puzzle which says 'budget'

The combination of consistently low funding from central government, high inflation and increasing resident needs means the council’s financial situation is as difficult as it has ever been – with savings needed this year and into the future.

This challenge will require difficult decisions in the short term and innovative solutions to safeguard the council and its services in the long-term. And the council is seeking views on how to meet that long-term challenge.

Take the survey

The Budget Engagement survey launched this week asks residents views on the principles by which the council will make its financial decisions, about long-term changes that could be made and about ways in which the community could help save taxpayers money. The survey closes on 3 November 2023.

If you need help filling in the survey, you can complete the survey over the phone by calling our Customer Services Team on (0118) 974 6000. You can also request a paper copy of the survey by completing a contact form on our website.

Executive member for finance Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey said: “The number of local councils getting into serious financial difficulties – including becoming effectively bankrupt is frightening. We are not in the worst situation here in the borough but cannot afford to be complacent and do need to make savings and increase income to pay for services.

“When we come to set our budget for the year ahead, we want to do so with some sound principles to guide the difficult decisions we will have to make. We have proposed principles and are asking what people think of them before they are set. Once agreed, these principles, along with our corporate priorities will guide our budget setting.”

The principles being consulted on are:

  • Our primary objective will be to maintain sound finances so we avoid becoming insolvent as other councils have done
  • When making budget decisions we will prioritise those people who need us most
  • We will generate income through increasing universal charges and through sensible long-term investments. We do this to minimise the need to reduce services and to prioritise support for those who need us most
  • We will introduce or increase charges for services to cover shortfalls only after careful consideration of impact and necessary consultation
  • We will only reduce services as a last resort, after considering alternative ways they could be provided
  • To safeguard our financial future, we will modernise the way we provide services by working with partners to maximise our joint resources

A key aspect of the council’s long-term plan is to significantly increase and improve the way it works with partners in order to pool resources and expertise, maximise assets and impact of work by closer collaboration.

Leader of the council Stephen Conway said: “We must think and act differently if we are to thrive in a future when finances are going to remain tough for local authorities. We can realistically expect inflation to fall but would be foolish to assume that government funding will improve dramatically no matter who is in power nationally or that the needs of our residents will suddenly decrease. Therefore, the answer must be to modernise and innovative.

“I passionately believe that people and organisations are stronger and better when they work together, that is why we are creating a community vision for the borough with partners and why we are asking the community about our budget setting principles through this consultation.”

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