December 13 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
With local authorities facing years of more austerity, the EADT is today asking its readers what you would like to see to reduce spending and keep down your council tax bills.
Which services are vital to your life? Which have to be kept operating to maintain our way of life?
And where is money being wasted in unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication?
Essex County Council has already had to make cuts of nearly £365million over the last four years and it is now looking at further cuts of £215m over the next two to three years.
District and borough councils are also facing major reductions in their central government grant. At Tendring, councillors are being asked to find savings of around £5m over the next three years while Braintree District Council is currently looking at how it can accommodate year-on-year cuts of more than £1m through to 2017.
At Essex County Council, where around 1,000 jobs have been cut since March 2010, deputy leader and the cabinet member for economic growth and infrastructure, Kevin Bentley, said there were still some “tough decisions” to make.
He said: “It may seem like a mixed message to people, because on the one hand we are being told the economy is picking up and businesses are doing better, and on the other we have this difficult situation for councils.
“The private sector has already made its tough decisions and is about four years ahead of the public sector and that is why we are facing this pain now.”
Mr Bentley said the council expected many savings to come from its Transformation 2 programme, which aims to outsource some council services and integrate back office operations where possible.
Other ideas include proposals to switch off street lights across the county from midnight to 5am in order to save on electricity bills, and selling off some council premises to reduce maintenance costs.
At Tendring District Council, leader Peter Halliday said there had been a number of suggestions on how the local authority could make savings –“some palatable and others not so palatable”.
“When we had the first round of cuts we were able to find savings fairly easily by reducing the number of people on high salaries but this time round it will be harder to avoid affecting frontline services,” he said.
Mr Halliday said one avenue being investigated was maximising business opportunities in the district, so the council would benefit from an uplift in business rates. He said the renewable energy and care sectors were two industries the council was keen to develop in Tendring.
At Braintree council, where the workforce has already halved in a decade, the need to come up with innovative solutions to the current financial situation recently prompted chief executive Nicola Beach to send a letter to councillors asking for new ideas.
Leader of the council, Graham Butland, responded by suggesting Essex’s 15 councils should be amalgamated into two councils – one for north Essex and one for the south of the county.
While it is unlikely this idea will be taken up anytime soon, Braintree has asked the Boundary Commission to investigate whether it could reduce the number of it councillors from 60 to 50 members.
“We have been running a lean operation for many years now that there is not much meat left on the bone to cut, so we have to start thinking of a new approach,” said Mr Butland.
We want to know how you would make local government more efficient. Write to: War on Waste, East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail email@example.com using the subject line War on Waste.