Plans to protect key frontline services such as adult social care and early intervention and prevention services will be put before Wigan Council’s top politicians on Thursday (23 February).
At the meeting, the budget proposals for 2012/13 will be outlined. The priority is to continue delivering the best possible services for Wigan residents, particularly the most vulnerable despite the significant savings that must be made.
Faced with the need to make savings of £66 million over four years, Wigan Council has already saved £21 million this year. The budget plans for 2012/13 will see the council save a further £24.2 million.
The budget proposals also recommend freezing Council Tax for next year.
In recognition of the issues facing young people securing employment opportunities Wigan Council plans to invest £100k in an apprentice scheme next year.
The council’s pledge to minimise the impact on vital frontline services means that the largest share of savings will come from cuts to the back office, around £6.9 million. This is in addition to the back office cuts made last year which included a saving of £1.3 million from senior management costs.
£5.7 million will also be saved by the council reviewing and re-negotiating contracts such as waste management, transport and leisure activities to ensure the best deals and value for money are secured.
The proposed savings in the budget plans including staff reductions involve:
- £2.5 million by restructuring the council’s finance to reduce borrowing costs
- £4.2 million from the back office functions of finance, property services and legal/democratic services
- £250,000 by consolidating premises and the sale/lease of under used council property
- £0.9 million by streamlining and sharing services with other councils
The council will also look at ways of generating income by providing services such as CCTV to other organisations or ensuring services such as planning or licensing are self funding.
Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith said:
“The reality of the next three years is that Wigan Council will have fewer staff and less money. The financial forecast makes sobering reading. By 2014 the reductions in government grants and the savings we must make mean we will have £400 less to spend per household. But our pledge to protect front line services remains. This will not be easy as some of our services such as adult social care will face increased demand with larger numbers of elderly people in our borough. That is why we are investing now to help our residents become more self reliant in the future.
The reduction in government grants has caused significant financial problems for us as the grants accounted for over 50 pence of every pound we spent. Only 12 pence of every pound spent came from the Council Tax. Our recommendation to freeze Council Tax next year, despite receiving less money, is in recognition of the tough circumstances we know our residents are facing. We have to be clear though, the grant we will receive for this is a once only deal from the government. It is almost like getting a pay rise for twelve months and then having it taken from you.
Tough decisions have been made over the last twelve months to reduce spend and operating costs and the budget proposals demonstrate that we will continue to do this by modernising services or sharing functions with other organisations.
The indications from government are that things are going to get worse but we are confident that we are doing all we can to manage the financial uncertainty”
Lord Smith continued:
“We can not fall behind though, we are determined more than ever to make the council, the borough and its people more resilient and confident. Delivering facilities such as the Life Centre in Wigan and the local life centres are great examples of how we are doing this by bringing our services closer to communities.
"We are also determined to help young people who are unable to find employment in the current climate. We have a responsibility to help vulnerable residents and we will use our power as a local employer to give young people that first vital opportunity. One of the ways we can do this is to offer an apprentice programme and our budget proposals include funds to invest in this critical area”
The recently launched Wigan Life Centre has enabled the council and its partners to offer a range of information and advice services under one roof. Funded by the government, the facility will enable the council to save money elsewhere by reducing the number of properties it owns or leases.
For 2012/13 the council’s revenue spend is set to be reduced from £272 million to £254 million and the capital spend will be £62 million. The council reserves will be reduced to £8.9 million due to £7.8 million being put to one side to fund the Equal Pay settlement.
The Audit Commission has recently assessed the council’s ability to secure value for money and concluded that proper arrangements were in place to secure financial resilience and that clear plans were in place to set out how and from where the required savings will be achieved.
The council’s cabinet will consider the authority’s budget for 2012/13 on Thursday 23 February. The budget will then be put forward before full Council for approval on 7 March.