Swindon Borough Council Leader Cllr Jim Robbins writes for Swindon Link.
December is a time of fun and celebration for many, but for councillors it also marks the first time that we must table the budget for the next municipal year at our Cabinet meeting.
Since 2010, austerity has meant that this isn’t a time for celebration as the Government has looked to reduce funding to local authorities and forced councils to cut services.
I know many people have a view that the public sector isn’t as dynamic or efficient as the private sector, but the sheer scale of the cuts that we have faced over the last 13 years have meant we are a much leaner organisation, and the cuts that we face this year will inevitably have an effect on our front-line services.
In 2010, Swindon Borough Council received almost £90m from the Government each year.
Now that is down to less than £35m despite a large rise in demand for the statutory services that we have to provide in adult social care and our children’s services.
Council tax-payers have taken on some of the brunt with the rate that you pay often rising by the full amount allowed.
When the Labour group took control of the council in May, we were offered some support by the Local Government Association and asked to identify two areas where we thought we needed some help.
We immediately picked Children’s Services as we knew of the challenges that we had inherited as shown by the Inadequate Ofsted rating, and also asked for some support with our finances to ensure that the information we had was accurate and if there were any measures we could take to improve the situation.
As a result of this, we have just had a Peer Review of our finances carried out by an experienced team of experts who confirmed that we are facing unprecedented challenges, and gave me the unwelcome news that "...this is the worst time in living memory to take over control of a Council!”
We will be publishing the report of the Peer Review along with the budget to make sure that residents are aware of the challenges that we face
Whilst we are determined to improve the town, and certainly improve residents' experiences of dealing with the council, it is clear that the finances will mean that it may take longer to make some of the changes that we want to deliver.
We will continue to use the missions that we have set ourselves to judge how we spend our money and try to work with residents for the good of the town.
Finally, can I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2024!
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