Tough decisions ahead for the Council
Back in August we began the Big Budget Conversation over how best to cope with another round of likely cuts to Council budgets by Welsh Government. In the Conversation we set out how we were planning to balance the books to protect local services, and meet all of our obligations such as the statutory services we have a duty to provide.
At that time we were waiting on the announcement of the budget we will receive from Welsh Government for the 2015/16 financial year, remembering that Flintshire is reliant on Government grant for around 75% of our budget with only around 25% coming from Council Tax paid by local residents.
We have since had our Government grant confirmed for 2015/16 and, as you may have seen in the press, the outcome is a 3.4% reduction. When you add this reduction to all of the other cost pressures we have to meet, costs which are no longer met for us by Government as they once were, the total gap we have to bridge in our annual budget is in the order of £16.5 million. This is the biggest budget gap we have ever had, and it comes on the back of already having made £22 million of efficiencies in the past two years alone.
We have previously set out our commitments to find internal savings, by being as efficient as possible, to shield local services from budget cuts. We have significantly reduced our running costs including big reductions in the numbers of senior managers we employ and reductions in support services such as administration. We are continuing to search for internal savings but this task becomes harder each year as the options begin to run out.
In our draft budget for 2015/16 you will see some impacts on services, but nothing which we do not believe is manageable with public co-operation, with a big proportion of the savings again coming from internal changes such as restructuring services and reducing the size of the workforce.
We are inviting feedback on the budget proposals which do have some impact on the public. If you move on to the next section when you have read this introduction you can review the proposals and see how you can let us know what you think. All of the public feedback on the budget will be shared in January with our Overview and Scrutiny committees, made up of Councillors, who have the task of reviewing and challenging the budget.
In looking to the future the prospects for council budgets are not promising. As a Council we will have to go further with changing the ways we work and we will have to make difficult choices between local priorities and services. For the moment we are staying positive; Flintshire is a well run and high performing Council and we continue to make big strides in achieving our goals in priority areas such as housing, education, social care, management of the local environment, and growing the local economy.
There are no major service closure programmes in our budget proposals. We are in early discussion with town and community councils and local community organisations to explore the possibilities for local community ownership of community buildings and some very local services to ensure their protection for the future. By working together in this way we can ensure that local facilities and services which local communities value will indeed have a future.
We would welcome your feedback on the budget and ask for your support for the approach we are taking to best serve the communities of Flintshire.
Colin Everett, Chief Executive
Aaron Shotton, Leader