Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver has today released his draft budget 2013/14 for consultation, noting in his budget message that in setting the budget the council is facing an unprecedented challenge.
The council along with all local authorities is entering the third year of the Governments’ Comprehensive Spending Review. For local government this means a reduction of 28% in Government funding over the four year period.
From next year’s budget Torbay Council needs to find up to £10million through a mixture of service savings, further efficiencies and increases in income. These reductions have to be set in context of the impact of rising costs, in particular to meet the care needs of an increasingly elderly and frail population in the Bay as well as additional pressures within children’s social care.
Mayor Oliver said, “The scale of this challenge can’t be emphasised enough, we simply cannot sustain the yearly level of cut that central government requires without cutting services. We have to try to find ways to reduce costs and look at new ways of delivering services so we can maintain as many services as possible that Torbay resident’s value.”
Torbay residents have been helping the council face this challenge, with the budget consultation starting in September this year.This included an event organised by Torbay councillors where the public were given the task of identifying where they would find the £8-10million budget deficit either through increasing income or service budget reductions.
Key feedback from the public included;
* There was some support for raising council tax to minimise the impact of the cuts
* There was some support for looking into other ways in which the council can generate income
* Members of the public were asked to take part in an exercise where they were asked to identify £8million savings across council services – this proved difficult, and not one group were able to find the total savings required – this resulted in a good debate around the size of the problem facing the council
* Although people struggled to find the total £8 million savings they activity still identified areas where the public felt that savings could be made.
The budget consultation process will continue with some proposals being the subject of detailed consultation with specific stakeholders and service users who may be affected by the proposed service changes. A number of the proposals will also be subject to the Overview and Scrutiny process with some proposals also being the subject of robust impact assessments.
Final feedback will then be considered with the Mayor finalising proposals at the Council meeting on 6 February, the adjourned Council on the 13 February may either adopt, amend or object to the proposals. The budget and Council Tax will be set at the Council meeting on 28 February.
Mayor Oliver went on to say “I would like to thank the many individuals and organisations that took part, gave us their views and helped to shape our thinking in proposing this very difficult budget. Whilst the central Government cuts are all over the national news, people don’t necessarily notice until it is something that directly affects them. We want to try and achieve a balance between the statutory services that we are required to provide by law and those that residents say they value the most.
“There are certainly no easy answers in proposing this budget, and it has and continues to be a painful process. I am committed to continuing to listen and re-examine everything we do and how we do it to ensure that the work we do for the Torbay community is focussed on their priorities and provides value for money.
“The reduced funding available to us will mean tough decisions; some services will be reduced; some will need to be delivered in a different way and some will stop altogether. I am committed to continuing to consult and involve our communities in making these difficult choices to ensure a healthy, prosperous and happy future for the Bay.”
The budget proposals can be viewed at www.torbay.gov.uk/budget1314