The Council’s Deputy Leader and finance boss Councillor Steve Eling talks about the council’s budget for the next three years.
Last night the council adopted its budget strategy for the next three years based on the Government’s autumn statement.
We’re in an extremely tough budget position. But we are up for the challenge.
We’re getting almost £30million less this year than we did last year if we compare the budget like-for-like.
Our budget for 2015/16 will be £122million less than it was in 2010/11. And overall, the council’s budget has been cut by £280million in the past five years.
Even on the Government’s own figures Sandwell has suffered a 5.1% government funding cut while affluent areas like Wokingham and Cheshire East get increases of 2.6% and 1.4% respectively.
So, what are we going to do to meet these reductions in funding?
It means that to survive, a number of services will have to be delivered in different ways in the future. That’s the difference between having a service and that service disappearing.
As a council we’re adopting a new Facing the Future strategy which aims to radically change the way we work in many areas so we don’t just impose percentage cuts across the board.
This means things like, for example, encouraging residents to do more business with us online, which is much cheaper than traditional face-to-face or other methods.
It also means getting better value for money when we buy goods and services, and a drive to encourage developers into Sandwell so we can increase the business rates and Council Tax we get from new companies and homes.
Facing the Future is a major part of our budget strategy to safeguard as far as we can our vision of frontline services and will continue to be over the next three years.
The final detailed budgets for services will be approved at the budget setting at the council meeting on March 3. At that meeting, the council will also decide on Council Tax for the coming year.
In recognition of our residents going through hard times, we have frozen Council Tax in the last four budgets and this will be an option that we’ll give serious consideration to again.
We’ve been planning the council’s budget over the medium term for many years now, and this puts us in a better position than many other councils, including some of our near neighbours.
I really want to reassure people that I am confident that our council is in a strong position and we’re confident that we can continue to protect the services that our residents value, despite the cuts.