Posted by Kevin Burchall.
After making savings of more than £100m in the past eight years and freezing council tax for the past five, Swindon Borough Council has announced its proposed budget for 2016-17, which prioritises investment in the local economy, local skills, and regeneration to ensure it remains financially strong in the future.
The plans include a rise in council tax of 1.94% to help meet its promise to continue to support the most vulnerable people in the Borough. A further 2% increase in council tax to pay for adult social care, which the Chancellor said was open to local authorities in his recent autumn statement, is still being considered.
The council needs to make savings of £20million in 2016-17. The draft budget has identified where £17.3million of this target can be found. Work is still going on to close the remaining £2.7million gap.
The Cabinet will consider the proposals at their meeting on Wednesday 9th December, with the final budget to be decided upon in February. A six-week public consultation on the draft proposals is planned to begin once the Cabinet decision has been considered by the Scrutiny Committee on Monday 14th December.
Among the savings being proposed are £4.5million within adult social care through more efficient use of care packages, and the closure of the remaining five children’s centres in favour of mobile service that targets help for those families most in need.
Swindon Borough Council is facing, in common with all councils, reductions in government grants combined with large increases in demand for services for children and young people and vulnerable elderly residents. Up to 2020, it must find another £60million in addition to the £20million required for the 2016-17 budget.
As a result of these pressures, the proposed budget signals that the council will now prioritise its efforts on growing the local economy to generate new income, provide more preventative services to address social care issues before they arise, and help more people to take care of themselves.
It proposes to pass services that would be better delivered at a more local level to parish councils, and community groups and organisations, giving local people a greater say over the services they receive.
Examples of what this would mean are:
Swindon Borough Council Leader Cllr David Renard said: “We have to find massive savings in the next four years on top of what we have already achieved. I am proud that for the most part, those savings have come from the council finding new ways to be more efficient and we have reduced the impact on frontline services.
“This remains our aim, but we now have to be radical and bold if we are to continue to succeed. We are, at the same time as having these savings pressures, facing unavoidable increases in costs due to high levels of demand for services to children, vulnerable adults, and the elderly.
“In simple terms, we can no longer continue to pay for all the services we have traditionally provided and must prioritise what services we provide and review how the rest might continue.
“This approach will ensure the council is, by 2020, both financially sustainable and delivering its Vision, Priorities and Pledges.”
Last updated: 1 December 2015 at 4:52 pm
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