Creative thinking the way forward as Council faces budget cuts
The Forest of Dean District Council is exploring innovative ways to continue to provide services in the face of expected budget cuts.
Councillor Bernie O’Neill, who has recently been appointed Cabinet Member for Finance, Business Support and Jobs, has already started to analyse the District Council’s budget position and states that;
“The Council will be faced with some difficult decisions in order to balance its budget and I have asked officers to continue to research income raising initiatives so that we can protect the services which the Council provides.”
Since the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, local government funding has been reduced by 48 per cent. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, Forest of Dean District Council’s core central government funding was cut by 10.6 per cent, a total of £306,000. Despite this, the Council continues to maintain its valued services to local people and going forward seeks to raise funding via new means.
Although Government funding from 1 April 2020 has not been announced, latest information suggests there will be a further 24 per cent cut in 2020-21. This uncertainty makes planning next year’s budget and finances difficult, but the Council has developed a medium-term financial strategy with estimated savings of £793,000 in 2020/21. These will be achieved through a combination of activities.
Steps to offset the expected budget reductions in 2020-21 include looking at raising extra income from innovative sources such as:
- Reviewing the fees and charges for services to ensure they are as fair and accurate as possible. Regular reviews of these fees ensure that the Council recovers its costs of service provision
- The introduction of a community lottery to help with the funding of community grants and projects
- Letting out unused accommodation in its current offices to local businesses. This will eliminate unused space within the building, as well as encourage the local economy and provide affordable, well-placed, office space
- Working with registered social landlords to increase affordable housing for its residents, as increasing affordable housing will relieve the pressure on other services
- Further investment in economic growth by acquiring suitable properties and renting them to tenants, such as businesses, to gain income for the Council
A large part of the savings plan is Publica, a shared services company, helping to streamline the work that officers do. Forest of Dean District Council retains its independence and identity but by working together with Publica and sharing resources it anticipates savings of £200,000 in 2020-21 as well as more efficient, effective delivery of local services.