Friday, January 22, 2010

Budget Pressures

Usually at about this time of year councillors are faced with a list of bids from services within the council for spending of the little bit of "headroom" money available. When all the things which have to be done are accounted for and all the things which our residents tell us are really important and must not be stopped are added in there's usually a few thousand pounds left for something new or different. We listen to the council officers telling us why their idea should get funding for a year or two and then we go away and think about which ones we are going to vote for.
Not this year. This year we listen to how councillors and council officers have managed to identify efficiency savings in order to save us having to cut back on frontline services. We hear how financial woes are pushing more and more families into the arms of social services and how the recent severe winter weather is going to affect our already stretched road maintenance budget. We are told that area transport plan budgets are being cut by central government. On top of that we know that we need to keep the increase in council tax down as low as possible but also that people really don't want us to spend less on things like emptying bins, recycling, services for disabled people. How do we know? Simple - we asked. Our Viewpoint surveys asked people which services they thought should reduce if we have to cut spending. The answers were - not much. It seems that the people of Stockton Borough are reasonably satisfied with the value for money they get. So we'll carry on trying to tighten the corporate belt without the effect showing on services. And we'll hope that the economic situation improves in the not too distant future.