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Residents have their say on cuts

Cabinet councillors in Wolverhampton will hear how city residents think budget cuts should be managed after thousands of people were invited to have their say.

All householders, businesses and voluntary sector organisations were asked to have an input into the council's budget setting process for the 2015 to 2016 financial year.

Nearly 600 people completed a survey and others attended consultation meetings to make their views known.

The results of the consultation, which ran between October and January, will be reported to the Cabinet when it meets next Wednesday (4 February, 2015).

Keys findings were as follows:

  • when asked to rank services in order of importance, the top 3 services which respondents felt should remain totally protected from cuts are - protecting children from harm, caring for elderly and vulnerable adults/protecting them from harm, ensuring there are enough school places for the city's children
  • the top 3 services respondents said should have some protection from cuts were - keeping streets and open spaces clean, library services and leisure centres
  • services respondents ranked lowest in receiving protection from cuts included neighbourhood services (eg neighbourhood wardens) and cultural services (eg galleries, Bantock House)
  • 25% of respondents said they would be willing to volunteer and give up their own time to help reduce the cost of running services
  • 48% of respondents said they would be willing to pay more council tax if it helped to protect services

A more detailed analysis of the survey findings can be found in the agenda papers for next Wednesday's meeting which can be viewed at Meetings.

The consultation results will be taken into consideration when Cabinet recommends its final budget on 25 February, 2015.

Next week's meeting will also receive the latest regular report on how the council is managing its financial challenge in light of reductions in central government funding.

Director of finance Mark Taylor will say in a report that, based on the best information currently available, the council still needs to identify £40.6 million of savings over the next 4 years.

As always, this figure is subject to constant revision based on changing circumstances. One of the major pressures on the budget is the significant cost of looked after children. The council has previously stated its ambition to reduce these costs, while still ensuring child protection remains an absolute priority.

The number of children is starting to reduce and detailed work is ongoing before the 2015 to 2016 budget is finalised to identify and predict the likely number of looked after children in future years.

With existing numbers of looked after children remaining high, it is likely that the previous level of savings identified in this area will need to be reduced. This chimes with the wishes of residents who stated in the budget consultation that they wanted this area to be protected.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for resources, said: "I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to give us their views in the budget consultation - which we have done in a more cost effective way than before to save money.

"Thousands of people will have seen adverts in the local press, on our social media sites and our website directing them to an online survey which we did inhouse. We also held meetings out in different parts of the city.

"We called the consultation 'Managing Reality' because we are determined to continue the process of steering our way through these difficult times caused by huge cuts from Central Government.

"We will use what people have told us are their priorities as we produce the budget for 2015 to 2016.

"We have made considerable progress in reducing the huge £123 million budget deficit reported this time last year.

"However, based on current predictions, we still need to identify £40.6 million of savings over the next 4 years. That will inevitably mean more difficult decisions, more pain and the loss of some services that people value.

"Nobody wants to be doing this, but we have no choice and in making these tough choices we will always put the best interests of Wolverhampton first and take the views of the people on board."

  • released: Tuesday 27 January, 2015