It has been really interesting to read all the feedback from our recent consultation on the budget.
The consultation was open to everyone and ran until December. We were asking people to look at options for how the council could work differently in the future and then tell us their views. In total, we received more than 1,400 responses.
It is well known that, due to massive cuts, the council has some very difficult decisions to make and must also change the way it works. In Kirklees, the funding we receive from central government has been slashed to an unfair degree. For example, we’ve had double the cuts that have been imposed on Oxfordshire.
To give an idea of the numbers involved:
Our council’s net budget in 2010 was £340million
- Demand for services is increasing so, by 2019, we will need a budget of £426million just to ‘stand still’ financially
- Yet we’ll be a long, long way short of that figure. In fact the government cuts mean that, by 2019, our budget will actually be £261million
- That will leave a shortfall of £165million – which means we need to make £165million of savings, otherwise the council will be bankrupt.
This challenge is on a scale we’ve never seen before. Good planning in Kirklees has put us ahead of the game and we’ve already made big savings in, for example, staffing, office accommodation and running costs. We really do appreciate the sacrifices made by council staff, who work tremendously hard and have been very supportive at a time of change. The ongoing process, however, will become harder and harder – and, unavoidably, the impact is going to be felt by all local residents.
That’s just one reason why the recent consultation was so important. We can only spend the resources available to us, not the resources we wish we had, and therefore the options in the consultation focused on how the council can best support its main priorities. These are:
Supporting communities to do more for themselves and each other
- Keeping vulnerable people safe and helping them to stay in control of their lives
- Focusing on the things that only the council can do
I’ve talked before about this move towards New Council and, when I looked at the consultation feedback, it was good to see that most respondents understood and supported that journey. Most people agreed with the council’s three main priorities and this collective view is playing a vital part in the budget setting process.
Thanks to everyone who took part in the consultation – you can read the full findings here. At a time of unprecedented change for the council, your opinions have never been more valuable to us.