Rutland County Council approves £33m budget

Rutland County Council
Rutland County Council
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Councillors have approved a budget containing £1.5m of savings as they look to prepare for tough times ahead.

Rutland County Council held a special meeting yesterday (Monday) to discuss the budget for the coming year.

Despite proposing a freeze in council tax in exchange for a £208,000 Government grant, council leader Rogy Begy (Con) said the savings were needed as the Government was cutting its annual funding to the county by 2.1 per cent.

After some discussion councillors voted to approve a budget of just over £33m with reserves of about £7m. The tax freeze was accepted as part of the budget.

A proposed amendment to provide £10,000 funding for the Live@ events programme was defeated. Instead the programme will be closed, saving the council £20,000.

Speaking last week, coun Begy reassured residents that cuts in the budget would not affect frontline services.

He said: “We have been working very carefully on this. I have no feeling that we won’t find the savings.

“The whole objective of the exercise is to focus services on the frontline and maximise the efficiency of back offices.

“That is the key. We have got to put the money where it is needed.

“We are not looking at cutting frontline services.”

Savings have been split into two areas. The council’s various departments have identified just over £900,000 of achievable savings, which have been included in their budgets.

Many of these will be achieved through reorganisation and renegotiation of contracts and most will have nothing to do with frontline services.

For example, the corporate department aims to save £90,000 by introducing pool cars and reducing its overall mileage.

But savings identified by the highways department could be felt by residents.

The council hopes that by reducing road repairs by 10 per cent it will save £57,800, while clearing gullies on minor roads less often could save £10,000.

Coun Begy said there would be no impact on road safety. He added: “We are well aware that delays on work in certain areas can increase costs in future years. We will be taking that into account.

“We are asking teams to focus on areas where work is really needed.”

A further £631,400 of possible savings have also been identified and council staff are working to figure out exactly how these can be achieved.

The provision of adult social care has undergone radical changes with the introduction of personal budgets and the abolition of primary care trusts.

The council believes it can save £65,000 by reforming the department to deliver the services that are most needed without any overlap.

Coun Begy said: “We are trying to make it so we deliver services that allow people to stay in their homes for longer without going to hospital.

“It may be that there are services we provide that people are not buying. There is a lot of opportunity to purchase services from other providers now.”

The council also hopes to save £90,000 from its people directorate budget and £94,200 from the integrated youth, housing and community safety budget.

Some savings will be made by stopping services that are provided elsewhere, such as support for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Other savings could be achieved through staffing changes and reorganisation of departments.

Coun Begy said: “We are working with partners to ensure that instead of one plus one making three, it makes two.

“We are finding efficiency savings which enable us to provide services in a more effective way.”

The council has also secured an extra £94,000 from the Government for the coming year thanks to pressure from the Rural Services Network, of which Coun Begy is chairman.

The group is trying to convince ministers that rural authorities should receive a fairer share of Government funding as they often pay more for services.

Research by the group found rural councils receive up to 50 per cent less from the Government than urban councils.

Coun Begy said: “We have been able to show the Government that the cost of doing business in rural areas can be greater than in urban areas.

“Calling in small villages in Rutland to collect bins costs more than going down a terraced street in Leicester, for example.”

The full budget can be seen at the Rutland County Council website.