Council leader Cllr Jim Robbins writes for Swindon Link
It has been a busy summer at the council, with the new Chief Executive, Sam Mowbray, taking over and a plan agreed to refresh the senior leadership team.
These appointments are really important for us, a new administration, to be able to get the senior council officers in the right roles to be able to deliver on what we want to achieve as a council.
It was great to see the new Policy Development Groups have their first meetings ahead of the summer break, and hopefully they will be able to hit the ground running in September and really support work to deliver on the new council missions – to reduce inequality, build a better Swindon and achieve our net-zero targets.
The administration are using the summer to review our plans and pledges in light of what we have learned since taking over. The financial situation that we have inherited at the council from the Conservatives is worse than we expected. We knew that there was the eye-watering debt of £460m but we have also found significant in-year over-spending, well over £10m. This means that we are having to come up with a plan to reduce expenditure to balance the books, at the same time as trying to deliver on the promises we made to residents.
With the recent news that Marks & Spencer are looking to close their town centre stores, many residents asked us to review the car parking charges in the town centre. We are looking to see what we can do, but it will be tricky due to the overspends we have inherited.
As well as the in-year pressures, we will be starting the process of looking at the budgets for next year. With inflation still high and the Conservative Government expected to cut our funding yet again, we are currently anticipating having to make between £20 and £25m further cuts to balance the books.
Despite these challenges and the other problems we have inherited, such as the waste collection service struggling after years of cuts and with driver shortages, we are confident that we can deliver on our promises and residents will see the value of a Labour Administration in Swindon. I’ve been busy speaking to key employers in the town about our plans for community wealth building and delivering a stronger local economy for Swindon. I’m delighted by the positive reaction that I’ve had and am looking forward to being able to launch our Swindon Model later this year.
The Cabinet are working on a number of exciting plans for the future as well, and we have been really pleased by the enthusiastic and positive reaction to the missions and our plans from the council staff team. They have really got behind our plan to build a better Swindon, and we are excited about working with residents and council officers to make a real difference!
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