Q. When is the Council going to let the public know what it is planning to do to make the budget savings? It’s alright asking us what we think but what about telling us what you’re really going to do?
A. The Council has not yet released a comprehensive list of actions it will take in order to realise the necessary savings as the Government does not release details about the financial settlement until after Christmas. Once this is clear the Council will set the budget.
At this point it is possible for members of the public to look at a series of decisions made already in spending and income areas such as social care, leisure, car parking and around job cuts and voluntary redundancies by searching 'Cabinet decisions' (which are actually recommendations to full Council). We welcome your suggestions.
Q. Why don’t you 'thin out' the top and middle tier of management and not take jobs from those people who do the actual work?
A. The Council has reviewed its top layers of management and is in the process of taking out £1million of savings from senior management. This will mean a significantly reduced management team for the Council and, as you suggest, helps to ensure a lower impact on front line services
Q. There has been a lot of media coverage this weekend of an LGA report which suggests that Local Authorities will only be able to provide social care to people who are classed as having ‘Critical’ needs under Fair Access to Care. [Editors’ note: these are guidelines on assessing whether someone is eligible to receive social care services – referred to as ‘FACS criteria’] It has been suggested that this will effectively mean that care will no longer be provided to people who are living in their own homes. The care my relative receives is crucial to them and our family - it means they can maintain their independence. I am very worried about the threat of the loss of my relative’s care. Will you be taking this service away?
A. This could be a very worrying time for people receiving services and their families, but the Council has to plan services in accordance with budget restraints placed on it. In this context we have to consider all possible options. However, no decision has been made in relation to changing present eligibility for services under FACS criteria. We can assure you that the Council is determined to continue providing essential services for the most vulnerable people in the Borough in accordance with their assessed need.
Q. I am worried about the funding to Extended Schools. I understand they are funded by the government and then the Council allocates money to each cluster which pays the wages of the ESDW. At what point (month) is the Council made aware of the availability of the funding - or not as the case may be?
A. We have been informed by the Department for Education in a letter from Michael Gove of the 27th October 2010 that funding will be available for Extended Services. However, he outlines that Local Authorities will be made aware of specific details in December 2010. The summary of the current process is correct at this moment in time and we are awaiting further clarification around the new arrangements for school funding, so this could change. The Council will be writing to Schools to inform them of any further details as and when they become available.
Q. Why don't Members of the Council take a cut in the amount of expenses they are paid? Is it fair that they still get expenses for meals for evening meetings and so on in times of hardship for everyone else?
A. The levels of allowances members receive for their various responsibilities are recommended by an Independent Remuneration Panel with no direct involvement from councillors. This panel periodically reviews the Members' Allowances Scheme and it is currently in the process of being reconstituted to undertake such a review. Its recommendations will then be placed before the Council. The Council has recently reduced the level of meal provision available to members when they attend meetings at the Town Hall.