The biggest challenge facing the Council is our budget for the next three years.
We know that Whitehall is going to stop paying us grants because the government is still trying to remove the budget deficit it inherited in 2010. We know that the demand for the Council’s personal care services is going to continue to rise partly because of demographic pressures – the rising number of elderly – and partly because of the demand for more complex and better quality services.
The numbers are quite staggering. Although we have made £100m of savings in the last five years, we have to make another £58m over the next three. Our yearly budget will drop from about £137m to around £119m in three years’ time. In 2007, about 48% of the Council’s budget went on delivering personal care services. Now, just eight years later, it is over 70%.
You can see why we have difficult choices to make. As a council, we have transformed how we work so that there have been few changes affecting front line services. Re-introducing green waste charges was one example. For the 2016/17 budget and beyond, there could be many more proposals that will have a direct impact on residents.
It is because we face such difficult decisions that the Council’s Vision, Four Priorities, and Thirty Pledges are more important than ever. They reflect the choices we are going to make to provide a sustainable future for the Borough. The Vision allows us to define what our front line services will be along with those that will receive less attention.
We centred the Vision on continuing to improve the local economy. It is only by creating wealth that we will have the resources, both as private individuals and through the state, to address the wider social needs. I will make no apology for arguing for the Council to direct resources to those projects that will support the creation of new and better jobs, whether that is through extending access to the government’s standard of broadband access or having a wide range of secondary school places from schools, colleges and hopefully a grammar stream.
To achieve this there will be some historical services that we may not fund to the same degree. That is a why we have our plans to devolve services down to a local level as I believe decisions should be made as close as possible to the people they affect.