Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Council Budget (2) - Setting the Scene

It might be helpful before discussing various issues raised in the press and elsewhere to look more broadly at the Council's Budget, and the conext this year.

Next year, the Council is on track to spend over £2 million. Council priorities aren't plucked out of the air, but are shaped by the strategies and consultations that have taken place in the recent past. The Council doesn't work year-to-year, but instead tries to construct its budget over a 3 year period, so proper planning can take place. It is true to say that there is an overspend this year of £1.5 million, but that is more to do with exceeded budgets in Adult Services (a problem country-wide) and nothing to do, as I have indicated, with the Pedestrian Heart scheme.

In constructing the budget, the Council is looking both to improve existing services, whilst also striving to make efficiency savings. Next initiatives such as Street Scene, the merging of certain backroom services with Stockton and the energy review will save Council Tax payers a projected £1.039.

Still, with those savings, there is a likely overun for 2008/09. Consequently, the Council will have to make some difficult decisions as to where to reduce or eliminbate spending altogether. For the first time, not only have costed proposals for reductions been published, but also cuts which the Cabinet rejected. So charging a flat-rate £1 in Council car parks on a Sunday for example (bringing us into line with Middlesbrough) was rejected, as was in my portfolio area closing the Eastbourne Sports Complex and halving the spend on the annual fireworks display.

At the end of the day, the final budget will be reflected in the response we get from members of the public. The budget does have to balance, however, and Council Tax is currently projected to rise by 4.9%. It's unlikely the Government would allow us to make any increase beyond that level, so that is not an option.

If you would like to see the budget proposals for yourself, and comment on the proposals, you can do so here. (This is very informative, and explains the whole thing far better than I have). Alternatively, you can come along and speak directly at one of the 6 Talking Together events scheduled to take place over the next few weeks;

Tuesday January 15, from 5pm to 7.30pm, at Holy Family RC Primary School, Prior Street, Cockerton. (See you there!)
Saturday January 19, from 10am to noon, at St George's CE Primary School, Neasham Road, Middleton St George.
Wednesday, January 23, from 6pm to 8pm at St. James' Church Hall, Allan Street, Albert Hill.
Wednesday, January 30, from 6pm to 8pm, at Whinfield Primary School, Jesmond Road.
Saturday, February 2, from 10am to noon, at All Saints' Church, Ravensdale Road.
Wednesday, February 6, from 6pm to 8pm, at Heathfield Primary School, The Broadway.

Then, finally, the Council’s Resources Scrutiny Committee will be reviewing the proposed budget on Tuesday, January 29 at the Town Hall. Residents can attend the meeting and comment on the budget.

A Cabinet meeting on February 19, at 5pm, in the Town Hall will consider all of the public responses and residents can also attend this meeting.

Finally, a meeting of all councillors will consider the Cabinet’s proposed budget on February 28 at 6pm, in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall. Residents can ask questions at that meeting – contact Lynne Wood on (01325) 388287 to find out how to do so.


Martin said...

"Next year, the Council is on track to spend over £2 million".

Was that what you meant to type Nick? They spend more than that in a week!

miketually said...

I did wonder about that. A £2 million annual budget makes a £1.5 million Pedestrian Heart overspend somewhat worse!

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

I am seriously concerned about the proposed reduction of staffing in the Trading Standards Department which is contained in the budget document.

The results of these proposalsif they are implemented will be that rogue traders will proliferate preying on the elderly and vulnerable in particular. Do you want that? I do not.

Trading Standards enforce the law relating to sales of alcohol to underage drinkers something which is close to my heart as a parent. We have had two fatalities on the railway through underage drinking we do not want any more.

Are you seriously suggesting these valuable services can be taken over by a call centre miles from Darlington? Your response to these points would be very welcome.

Ian White, townliar.com said...

I am concerned at the proposed cutting of the Parish Council budgets, why do away with these essential funds that help form and fund village life?

Why have cut backs on essential things when you are only cutting back half of the firework budget, something that is none essential?

Like wise a lot of the rubbish the listening council put on for the town center (to bring back the trade they forced away)could be done away with before the need to cut Parish budgets even became an issue.

Also like the comments in the Echo, I notice it does seem to be the villages that are not Labour controled that are suffering?

Perhaps what is needed is a cut in Alan Milburns expenses, his rail travel alone would fund several small country's, In essence I think it an ill thought through decision, unless it was deliberate!