Agenda item

Budget Consultation Process


That the update be received and that Members be informed of the budget consultation workshop dates as soon as possible.            



The Chief Executive thanked the Chair for the opportunity to bring this issue to Members, and reported that the provisional local government settlement from the Wales Government was due to be published on the 8th October 2014.  He explained the process which went from publication of provisional settlement through consultation to final settlement.  This was normally in mid to late December.


He went on to explain that the Group Leaders had been briefed on the fundamental business planning  review process which was being undertaken and commented on difficulties in planning longer term when the Welsh Government was only providing one year settlements.  He went on to say that indicative reductions of between 1.5% and 4.5% in the Revenue Support Grant were being anticipated.  Until the publication of the provisional settlement, the extent of the reduction would not be known.  All services were currently approaching this on a ‘worst case’ scenario.


Initially discussions would take place with the Leadership and Cabinet before wider consultation was instituted.


The Leader and Chief Executive commented on the ‘Big Budget Conversation’ which had provided information to Flintshire residents on the scale of the project and the budget cuts required; 550 responses had been received to date.  He commented on options for Town and Community Councils which could include the sharing of responsibilities. 


                        The Leader of the Council said that discussions with Cabinet and Senior Officers on the budget were paramount.  He expressed his pride at being able to support the budget for 2014/15 which had set out internal efficiencies before frontline services but said that this could not continue in the future.  The funding proposals from Welsh Government were awaited with the worst expectation being 4.5% or £18m, meaning a total of £31m over two years.


            Councillor Guest referred to the Big Budget Conversation and asked whether Members would receive a report on the outcome. The Chief Executive confirmed that the results of the survey would be shared with members and published.


            In response to a question from Councillor Guest, the Leader of the Council said that it was hoped that the views expressed in the questionnaire would be shared as a background document during the consultation exercise.  He added that there had been some suggestions had been made of where savings could be made. 


            The Chief Executive said that it had been important to inform residents of the challenges that the Council was facing and that it was also good practice to provide information on the outcome of the survey.  He commented on the challenging times ahead which could include consideration of alternative models such as increased charges. 


            Councillor Clive Carver asked how it could be ensured that the responses received on social media were valid and not from a small number of residents making repeated responses.  The Chief Executive said that users had been encouraged to indicate whether they lived in Flintshire but reminded the Committee that the comments received as part of the research did not form a binding decision.  The primary aim of the survey was to provide residents with information about the challenging times ahead and to seek their comments on how they felt the cuts should be achieved. 


            The Chair emphasised the need for the dates of Member consultation meetings to be published as soon as possible. 


            In referring to the significant budget cuts facing the authority, Councillor Mike Peers asked whether the future protection of front line services was in doubt.  The Leader of the Council responded that it was important to continue to protect these services but reminded Members that the Council would have to deliver fewer services due to lower funding provision and he could therefore not confirm that frontline services would be protected in the future.


            Councillor Richard Jones asked how the results from the survey/consultation exercise would create a criteria to assist the leadership in making the difficult decisions that the Council faced and how they would use the suggestions put forward.  The Leader of the Council said that there would be a need to have these discussions at the second stage of consultation and added that Members, as part of the democratic debate, would need to decide how to use the consultation responses.  He welcomed the option to discuss Councillor Jones’ views on the criteria and referred to the unprecedented financial challenge.  He added that Members would need to make difficult choices based on priorities and that a suite of options in excess of £18m was required to present to Members to allow those choices to be made.   


            The Chief Executive said that significant cuts internally could not continue and that the consultation exercise was a way of providing residents with the information on the challenges ahead and seeking their opinions.  He reminded Members of the difficult decisions that they would have to make and added that all service areas would need to consider how to make savings.  In response to a query from the Chair, he confirmed that workshops would be held for Members prior to the formal Overview & Scrutiny budget meetings but that dates for these had not yet been set. 


            Councillor Paul Shotton said that it was important to raise public awareness of the seriousness of the situation.  Councillor Peter Curtis welcomed the opportunity for the public to be able to put forward their views and said that due to the potential budget cuts, it was impossible to confirm that front line services would not be affected.  The Cabinet Member for Corporate Management, Councillor Mullin, agreed that the views of residents through public engagement were important.                 



            That the update be received and that Members be informed of the budget consultation workshop dates as soon as possible.