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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Measures agreed to meet budget challenge

West Lancashire Borough Council has agreed further options for savings, efficiencies and increases in income totalling more than £570,000 at its meeting on Wednesday 19 October 2016.

The Council needs to save around £1.44 million in its 2017/18 budget. A wide range of measures that will not impact on residents have previously been approved by the authority to address this situation. These include negotiating reductions in existing contract costs; ensuring that we get all the income due from council tax and business rates; building new industrial units to rent; and the purchase of the Wheatsheaf Walks site in Ormskirk town centre. However even after all of these measures were taken into account there was still a large budget gap.

Consequently a public consultation was held with residents, community organisations and businesses on a number of savings proposals. The Council meeting on 19 October considered these consultation results as well as the challenging financial position facing all local authorities and other relevant factors and then agreed to:

  • Introduce an annual charge of £30 to collect garden waste from next year
  • Charge £25 per year per bin to have an extra green bin emptied
  • Remove static recycling sites across the Borough
  • Reduce the time period for discretionary Council Tax discounts on empty properties
  • Reduce the car allowances paid to staff and Councillors for business mileage

At this meeting Councillors also agreed not to cease garden waste collections during the winter, and deferred making decisions on a range of matters including:

  • 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

Following these decisions the Council faces a remaining budget gap of £390,000 in its budget for 2017/18. Consideration will be given over the next few months to how this gap can be closed through the budget process and the Council will then set its final budget for 2017/18 at its meeting in February 2017.

Councillor Chris Wynn, Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “The Council manages its budgets effectively to ensure the authority provides excellent value for money. In previous years we have made savings while minimising any effects on services, but now these options have been used up. Due to continued cuts in government funding we have to make tough decisions that may affect a number of residents.

“We want to thank everyone who took part in the public consultation. We have taken people’s views into account when making these decisions.”

Over the last seven years, the Council has reduced its annual budget requirement by well over 30%. 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.

In addition 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

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