Last chance to have your say on council’s draft budget 2011/12

Published on 21st January 2011

Public consultation on the draft budget ends on 22 January. The document will then be discussed by the council’s Cabinet on 8 February, and then by full council on 11 February.

The budget takes place against the background of an unprecedented financial crisis which has resulted in huge cuts in public expenditure. In the next two years central government funding will reduce by almost a quarter. As a result the council's net budget will decline from £16.75 million in the current year to £14.25 million in the coming year.

Local residents have already helped create Cheltenham Borough Council's budget for next year, 2011/12 by giving their views in high profile public consultation which was used to prepare the draft budget towards the end of 2010.

During this consultation local people gave a clear message that front line services should be protected and that cuts should focus on back office activities, plus those areas associated with member and civic expenditure. Most reductions of expenditure have been concerned with reducing back-office functions but despite this there will still be a cut in services.

Cabinet members are putting forward a number of proposals for next year's budget which, if approved at council in February, will save £2.9m. These include:

  • Cutting cabinet members' allowances by 5%
  • Reduction in civic expenditure
  • Continued promotion of shared services with other local authorities to reduce long term expenditure and increase service resilience
  • Reducing the cost of council assets for example through the sale of surplus assets
  • Lowering running costs in council premises which are still needed, for instance by reducing energy consumption
  • Smaller budgets for corporate training schemes
  • Internal restructures to increase efficiencies, as part of the council's move to become a 'commissioning organisation'. This will see a senior management restructure, which will save £213,000 per annum when completed
  • A  freeze on parking charges and no increase in Council Tax in the coming year
  • A 'zero recruitment' initiative - with the exception of statutory services and revenue raising activities
  • A reduction in the number of staff - 32 jobs will be lost accounting for 5% of the council's workforce
  • Flexible retirement and voluntary reduction in employee hours where possible
  • A reduction in planting in some parks and gardens and a reduction in cutting roadside verges
  • Increased support for youth work and the voluntary sector to enable them to supply provision of reduced services
  • A reduction in the grant to Cheltenham Festivals.
  • Restructuring  the council to focus on commissioning services in a way that protects quality as well as saving money
  • Charging for the collection of green waste

The cabinet has also reviewed the costs associated with providing public toilets, putting forward plans to consult with shops and cafes to allow the public access to their toilets as an alternative to using the current facilities.

Mark Sheldon, chief finance officer said: '' Despite planning for the 10.7% cut announced in the coalition Government's emergency budget in October, the actual cut in cash support to the council will be 15.46% in 2011/12. The council has worked incredibly hard to save £2.9m next year with minimal impact on frontline services.''

Councillor John Webster, cabinet member for finance said: ''This is the biggest budget deficit we have ever had to tackle. We have had to reduce the scale of services we deliver and this will see the loss of 32 jobs this year and 7 next year. We have done our best to limit the impact on services, but there will be reductions in provision and inevitable public concern.''

Local people can once again have their say by taking part in the draft budget consultation. Visit www.cheltenham.gov.uk for details, or call in to the Municipal Offices.

For press enquiries, contact: Katie Sandey, communications team leader, telephone 01242 775050 or email: Katie.sandey@www.cheltenham.gov.uk