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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Meeting the budget challenge

Options for savings, efficiencies and increases in income totalling more than £800,000 in the General Revenue Budget will be considered by West Lancashire Borough Council on Wednesday 20 July.

After the Council has agreed provisional proposals for consultation it will invite local residents, community organisations and businesses to give their views before final decisions are made in October for implementation in 2017/18.

For 2017/18, the Council needs to save around £1.44 million. Measures totalling around £570,000 that will not impact on residents have already been identified, with some proposed for approval at the 20 July meeting, including increased income from fees; renegotiating of a transport contract; ceasing provision of broadband to councillors’ homes; and ensuring that we get all the income due from council tax and business rates.

At the Council meeting on 20 July, Councillors will consider measures to find the remaining £870,000 savings needed. The main policy options under consideration at this stage include:

  • Introducing an annual charge of £30 to collect garden waste
  • Ceasing garden waste collections during the winter
  • Modest reductions in the number of CCTV cameras in the lowest priority areas and in live monitoring in off peak periods
  • A review of street cleaning work
  • A new approach to public toilets provision

Cllr Chris Wynn, portfolio holder for finance, said: “While we will try to minimise the effect on residents and local communities, in fact there is little scope to make this level of savings without an impact. We will invite local people to give their views over the summer so that this can be taken into account in the decision making process.”

Over the last seven years, the Council has reduced its annual budget requirement by well over 30%, primarily as a result of reductions in government funding.

Some of the main measures were savings of over £500,000 per year made through a partnership agreement with Lancashire County Council and BT Lancashire Services for the delivery of Revenues, Benefits and IT services; and budget streamlining savings of £645,000 to reduce costs by efficiencies without affecting services.

Last year the Council consulted residents and local organisations about efficiencies, income increases and savings as part of a package of measures worth £1.7m. These are now being implemented, and include:

  • Staff savings of almost £175,000 primarily from a restructure of senior management
  • Streamlining spending across all service areas by around £220,000
  • Increasing income from planning fees, street naming, rents from commercial properties, solar panels and council tax.

Overall, the Council will have to find £3.5 million savings per year by 2019-20, which is equivalent to around 15% to 20% of the budget.

The Council meeting on 20 July will also consider a number of potential savings from the housing budget, where around £8m needs to be saved over the next 3 years. When the Council has agreed proposals for consultation, it will invite Council tenants to give their views. Final decisions on these savings will also be made in October.

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