HOW would you balance a £22m shortfall in the county council’s budget next year?
Whether residents think raising council tax is the answer, or believe cutting back services is the only way forward, they can now have a go at making those tough decisions.
Derbyshire County Council, which must shave £22m from its spending in 2012-13, has created an online budget calculator that puts local people in the shoes of town hall chiefs when it comes to balancing the books.
Click on the link to the right to try the budget calculator
“This feedback will have an impact on what we decide to do,” said Cllr John Harrison, cabinet member for finance and management.
“Of course it will, because we’re a caring council and we want to hear from as many people as possible about what they would like to see us doing with our resources.
“Do we spend more on adult care or do we spend more on highways and pavements? There is a knock-on effect of each decision with a lower amount of funding at our disposal.”
Overall the authority faces a £94m reduction in funding over four years. One of the decisions it has taken is to reduce staffing levels by 2,000 jobs by the end of 2014-15.
Cllr Harrison said deciding whether to freeze council tax for a second year, helping hard-pressed households, under a Government initiative, was another. It is a balancing act and that’s basically what politics is all about – trying to do the best we can.”
Readers have suggested cutting staff, events and councillors’ allowances as well as the number of representatives on our Facebook fan page.
When asked about critics saying the calculator was a PR exercise, or simply asking residents to do councillors’ jobs for them, Cllr Harrison said: “We’re trying to be open and transparent.
“This is our opportunity to hear the views of the public as to what their priorities are so we can do our best to help, although we might not be able to do so in every case.”
The calculator is being used by other authorities nationwide – a similar project is being run in Sheffield– and people can also compare how their choices match others in different places.
It is available at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/budget and the internet can be accessed at local libraries.
Full budget proposals will be presented to full council early next year and residents who want to take part are urged to complete the calculator as soon as possible.
By Ellen Beardmore