Residents urged to help cash-strapped Derbyshire County Council shape its budget
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The cash-strapped, Conservative-controlled council has already said it aims to stop all non-essential spending and implement a hiring freeze due to a forecasted overspend on its budget of £46m, by March, 2024.
Residents will now be able to have their say on how the council could save money or raise additional revenue, while offering views about where they live and the services they use, as part of the council’s annual residents’ Your Council Your Voice survey.
Derbyshire County Council Leader, Councillor Barry Lewis, said: “We are all aware of the current economic difficulties and the challenges this brings which affect the council as much as they are affecting households and businesses across Derbyshire.
“Derbyshire County Council has always been a well-managed, efficient and financially stable council which has balanced its books, maintained a robust level of reserves and been able to support vital, high quality, value-for-money services for Derbyshire residents.
“However, the reality is that the financial pressures we are facing are greater than ever experienced before, with most of these pressures being simply outside our control.
“These include higher than anticipated inflation which impacts all our spending including fuel, energy and materials costs. We are also seeing increased demand for our services, especially across children’s services and adult social care.”
The council has argued that many local authorities across the country are experiencing similar external, financial issues due to the impact from exceptionally high inflation rates, Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis all of which are placing a heavy strain on local authorities.
Cllr Lewis has stated that the council is already working very hard and is looking at essential and non-essential services, aming to lobby Government for support and it is look at staffing and overtime.
The council also aims to look at its ear-marked reserves to help manage the situation and it has approved a report highlighting the cost-control measures being implemented to reduce the current financial year’s, forecasted £46m budget overspend.
These include: A recruitment freeze; Reviewing and reducing agency staff; Reducing overtime and additional hours; Stopping non-essential conferences, travel or training; Carrying out only health and safety repairs on properties; Reducing spending on print, IT equipment and stationery; Delaying unsigned contracts; And postponing projects that are still in the planning stage.
Residents are now being be asked as part of the survey for their views on where they think the council should prioritise its spending for the 2024/25 financial year’s budget, how satisfied they are with council services, and which ones are the most important and least important to them, and why?
They will also be asked for their views and ideas on how the council could save money or raise additional revenue.
Derbyshire residents will also be given the chance to have their say about individual proposals which may affect them as they are put forward over the coming months.
The council’s cabinet will consider the survey responses relating to the 2024/25 budget, along with budget proposals at a meeting in early February, 2024, before the budget is considered by the Full Council later in the same month.
Derbyshire County Council has also confirmed that responses relating to non-budget issues in the Your Council Your Voice survey will also be used to help shape and improve council services in the year ahead.
Cllr Lewis added: ““As we look towards setting our budget for 2024-25 work is already on-going across the council to reduce a forecast overspend of £46m in the current financial year which we announced in September. Cost-control measures are in place and we will shortly be reporting on progress.
“This challenging financial situation makes it more important than ever that Derbyshire residents take part in this year’s Your Council Your Voice survey and help us to shape our budget and give us their views on where they think we should prioritise spending.”
The Your Council Your Voice survey will run for six weeks until Sunday, December 17.
Residents are being encouraged to complete the survey, which has 16 main questions including an opportunity for people to give suggestions via the county council’s www.derbyshire.gov.uk/yourcouncilyourvoice2023 website link.