Wednesday, 16 February 2011

West Lindsey On Track For Balanced Budget

West Lindsey District Council already has a lean budget, thanks to changes made by Conservatives who took control in May 2008. It is now apparent that most of this year's spending will be balanced by efficiency savings and income, with no services being scrapped.

The authority currently has one of the lowest charges in the country and is also debt free.

Leader of the Council, Cllr. Burt Keimach, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward), said:
"We received the worst district council settlement on government funding in Lincolnshire and among one of the worst in the country, but we are proposing no council tax rise.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but early indications show we will be able to balance our budget for this financial year without impacting on key services, making expensive redundancies or increasing council tax."
The council needs to save £2.5m over the next two years and another £250,000 as a result of other pressures, such as inflation. Although the council's budget will not be officially agreed until Monday, 7th March 2011, there is cause for optomism.

The authority's Chief Executive, Mrs. Manjeet Gill, has attributed this achievement to the 'entrepreneurial staff' working within the authority, who have reduced costs by about £80,000 and improved performance. She said:
"We would not be in this position today if it was not for the fantastic involvement of councillors, parishes, residents, partners, businesses and trade unions.

"Everyone has worked responsibly as a team.

"For example, we are exploring the possibility of increasing our CCTV monitoring from 72 to 150 hours, saving £50,000 at the same time."
Cllr. Keimach has thanked members of the Citizens' Panel and residents for their feedback during the recent budget consultations. He said:
"We had an impressive 733 responses from the Citizens Panel and all broadly in support of the council's strategy. In particular, they wanted to see more income generation rather than stopping services, although they agreed some services needed to be rationalised.

"For example, investment of £2.9 million in kerbside door-to- door recycling collections and the Market Rasen recycling centre, means we should look to reducing provision of bring sites, to focus on items such as clothing or books.

"What was surprising was residents were often willing to accept harsher service reductions than the ones we are suggesting. They also felt rather than the taxpayers paying, a user should pay for certain services, such as bulky goods collections."
The Branch Secretary for Unison, Ms Carol Bond, said:
"West Lindsey has been hit particularly hard.

"But by confronting the problem at the earliest point and charging everyone to come up with ideas and identifying savings in every area, it has been possible to prevent any compulsory redundancies at this time."
Following the consultation with residents, the current proposals include a £30 charge be introduced for the provision and delivery of wheelie bins to new properties. An inflationary increase to be applied to the Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough. Licensing charges of taxis, private hire vehicles, sex shop and gambling licenses face a seven and a half percent increase, which would bring West Lindsey in line with other district councils. The proposals also calls for a nineteen per cent increase in the collection fee for the recovery of stray dogs.

Mr. Russell Stone, Financial Services Manager at the district council, said:
"The council has a responsibility to revise its fees and charges to reflect the pressures of inflation and to recover the costs of delivering specific services.

"West Lindsey District Council is not proposing to scrap any services in the district.

"Despite having one of the lowest council tax charges, the council is not proposing to increase West Lindsey's share of the council tax in the next financial year."
Cllr. Mrs. Anne Welburn, Conservative (Cherry Willingham Ward), emphasied that everyone was doing their bit to keep council taxes low. She said:
"West Lindsey District Council held meetings and forums to determine ways to keep costs down.

"The council went to the people of West Lindsey to ask them how they should balance the books.

"Our main aim is to keep living costs as low as possible.

"The whole case has been finding out what the public want us to do and the impression is that they would go further than is needed to keep the council rates low – as we all would.

"Councillors in West Lindsey haven't taken a raise in our allowances for two years because we've all been working together to streamline West Lindsey, and that includes streamlining ourselves."

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