“This is the toughest budget we’ve ever faced,” says Kent County Council’s cabinet member for finance, John Simmonds. Kent is one of several local authorities opening consultations on its budget for 2015/16, as they struggle to balance the books.
Kent expects it will have to find a further £206m over the next three years, on top of the £269m squeezed out since 2012. A Council Tax increase of 1.99% is one of the proposals put forward by the council’s cabinet. Other suggestions are to speed-up integration of its social care with that of the NHS and to improve social care preventative services to reduce future demand. Kent also intends to outsource more services, strengthen its procurement system, cut payments to suppliers and reduce the number of council premises. Some capital projects may be abandoned.
The focus of Lambeth’s consultation is to persuade residents to do more, so the council does less. An example is that ‘street champions’ will be appointed to encourage residents to clean their own streets and discourage people from dropping litter and gum. The council says that if it can reduce its attention to things like street cleaning it can focus more on core services, in particular social care.
Lambeth’s cabinet member for finance, Paul McGlone, explains: “We are working to encourage people to take more responsibility for their actions as well as their community.”
Devon County Council is consulting with residents on both its roads and waste budgets. It intends to cut £3.4m from the highways budget and £265,000 from waste management. The council proposes to save £700,000 a year by cutting grass verges only where necessary for road safety reasons. It also plans to cut the road gritting service. To reduce the waste budget, the payment of recycling credits for textiles to third parties would end and charges introduced for disposing of old building materials, such as plastic window frames.
The consultation from Nottinghamshire County Council proposes more service delivery through the not for profit sector – the council is open to suggestions on which services – and supporting independent living, in part through greater use of automated technologies in place of care workers. The council also wants to conduct more transactions and communications online and may call on its reserves to avoid severe cuts.
A paper prepared for Leeds City Council’s executive board proposes using £5.5m from reserves next year, up from £3.5m this year. Suggested savings include greater diversion of waste from landfill and completing the roll-out of fortnightly bin collections. It wants to increase support for children to continue to live with their families and assist staff in the creation of a social enterprise to support people with learning disabilities. The council intends to increase the number of homes built and so maximise income from the new homes bonus and council tax.
Like Lambeth, Leeds says it wants to move to a model of local government in which citizens become more engaged.