Gloucestershire County Council is expecting to have to tackle a £120 million funding gap in its budget over the next four years, it announced today.
This is a combination of expected cuts to government grants and growing service pressures.
Speaking at a briefing of the county’s public sector, business and charity leaders, Council Leader, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, said the council has already started planning for savings of up to 30%. The leaders had been invited to hear from Cllr Hawthorne and Chief Executive Peter Bungard how the council intends to meet this challenge and the resulting impact on Gloucestershire’s services and economy. Mark Hawthorne appealed to leaders to work with the council to change the way services are delivered and to meet the budget challenges together.
He said: “Significant budget cuts are coming and I want to be clear how this council is meeting the challenge head on. Over the last four years, we have saved £40 million through efficiencies alone. We know we cannot make £120 million in savings by just being more efficient, there has to be a significant change to the way we all do business and provide services.
“To give people an insight into just how significant the budget challenge is for Gloucestershire, the savings we need to find is more than we spend on libraries, roads, waste, Trading Standards and Fire & Rescue combined in a year. “However, I also see this as a once in a generation chance to rethink everything we do and find a new model for the way public services are delivered in Gloucestershire.”
Chancellor George Osborne has already said that all areas of government spending, apart from the NHS and overseas aid, face cuts of at least 25%. With council tax frozen for 2011, local councils cannot raise extra money from the taxpayer. Cllr Hawthorne said that funding reductions on this scale will impact on every area of the council, so it is important that local people have their say.
Council Chief Executive, Peter Bungard, said it is vital that residents understand the issues and get involved:
He said: “Over the next month we want a real discussion to take place with our customers and the many organisations we work with across the Gloucestershire economy about the way we deliver services. I want to share the dilemmas we face and the choices we have to make. There is a real chance to have a go at balancing our books and find out more about how the council is meeting the challenge.”
Councillor Mark Hawthorne added: “We have developed some strong principles that define who we are, what we are about and where we are going. I want everyone to understand them and the decisions we will have to make.”
The council has outlined three main principles will that will underpin every decision it makes in the future.
• Living within our means – not passing on debts to the next generation
• Providing the basics – the council will focus on good basic services that make a real difference to people with quality more important than who provides them
• Helping communities help themselves – giving power back to local people to get better results and achieve better value
The Chancellor will announce details of government spending plans for the next few years on 20 October 2010 in the comprehensive spending review.
In September the council will be hosting roadshows around the county to talk to local people, including getting them involved in putting together a council budget. An online budget simulator has been launched for people to have a go at balancing the council’s budget, www.meetingthechallenge.org.uk
When the Coalition Government makes its announcement on October 20th the council will use this information and all the feedback to make some fundamental decisions about its future. A report will go to Cabinet in November outlining the recommendations.
The final decision on next year’s budget will be taken by Full Council in February 2011.
Gloucestershire County Council’s total annual budget is £407.3m; this does not include the direct schools grant of £326.2m. The total number of employees is approx 17,500, including school staff.
The main services are funded as follows:
• Children and Young People £91.2m
• Community and Adult Care £173.8m
• Environment £66.2m
• Community Safety (includes Fire & Rescue) £25.1m
• 63 extra police officers countywide £2.1m
• Technical and Corporate Costs (including capital financing) £48.9m
*Support Service costs of £26 million are included within the figures above.
A copy of the presentation and details of public roadshows are available online at www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/meetingthechallenge