Coun Peter Box: “Hard choices for seventh year of budget cuts”

Coun Peter Box.
Coun Peter Box.

“Many of you will now be aware of our very difficult budget proposals for 2017/18”, writes Coun Peter Box this week’s Follow the Leader column.

“Government cuts have taken another £15.4m out of our funds this year and we have to find a further £11.5m to deal with demand pressures for children and adults social care services – a total of almost £27m in a single year.

This means that in 2017/18 many frontline and essential services will be affected, including support for vulnerable children and adults, leisure provision, public health services and street cleaning and flytipping services.

I recognise that some of these changes will have an impact on you and our communities.

Let me assure you that we have carried out extensive work to try and balance the books whilst limiting the impact on the services you rely on most.

We’ve never been as efficient, innovative and enterprising, but the downside of this means that we can no longer find £27m of savings from efficiencies.

One the most difficult decisions we have taken is in relation to the government’s Adult Social Care precept, which this year will add another 3 per cent on top of your Council Tax.

I believe that it’s unacceptable for the government to wash their hands of the relentless rising costs of caring for our older people.

Yet again, their only solution is to shunt the burden to you the Council Tax payer.

I will continue to lobby hard, along with other council leaders, for the government to free up more funding for this desperately needed adult social care.

In the meantime if we are to continue with Adult Social Care provision, we have to follow the government’s directive.

We will also be redirecting an extra £9m, every year, to make sure these vital services continue.

But, there will still be significant financial pressures in this area and the only way forward will be to find different ways of delivering the services that remain, if we are to prevent them ceasing altogether.

This includes reducing the level of service provided by some of our statutory services, which in many cases protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Our children and young people services will also have to significantly change and shrink to ensure that savings can be made and the current overspend is reduced.

We are making hard choices and it will get even harder, but the needs and welfare of our residents and this district remains at the very heart of every decision we make.

I invite you to come along on 14 February to join my councillor colleagues, and I, for a special cabinet meeting where we will be discussing these budget proposals.

We would welcome the opportunity to hear what you think about the plans and will try and answer any questions. We’ll be at the Westfield Resource Centre in South Elmsall at 10.30am.”