Unprecedented times for council budgets

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West Lindsey faces “unprecedented times ahead” with cuts in government funding while being forced to take on extra responsibilities from it.

A council report discussed by the Challenge & Improvement Committee last night said actions already taken by the council, mean it is “well placed” for such challenges.

The report said the challenges facing local government “remain difficult” with central government already imposing funding cuts of £0.8million, while expecting councils to take on “extra burdens” from it.

“These changes create further unpredictability and increase the uncontrollable nature of the council’s resourcing.”

However: ”WLDC is well placed to deliver against these challenges with a robust financial base to build from, a history of making savings and in year surpluses being generated, in addition to its commercial aspirations.”

Audits have also shown “proper arrangements are in place for securing financial resilience and challenging how economy, efficiency and effectiveness is secured.”

“The approach being followed is not simply about balancing a budget, but is intended to deliver the radical change required to minimise service impact and deliver against social needs or changes in national legislation,” it said.

“The positive action taken by WLDC means that the authority is relatively well placed to respond to these challenges. There are however unprecedented times ahead and it is essential that the council continues to take proactive and sustained action as without this, the council’s financial position will not be sustainable in the longer term.”

In setting its financial strategy for 2014/15 the council identified a savings gap of around £3 million which needed to be closed over three years.

Around half the shortfall was for 2015/16 and the council had identified savings of all this amount bar £171,000.

The council has canvassed public opinion about future priorities and funding, receiving 657 responses.

It found the most three valued personal services were waste, community safety, public protection and food safety. The least three important were licensing, arts, sports and recreation.

The survey found support for sharing services with other councils, targeting services to those in need, and more use of technology to deliver services.

There was less support for privatising services.

The report concluded WLDC will try and identify further savings and secure new revenue streams of income, including incomes from investing in commercial opportunities and asset acquisitions.