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17 November 2014, 05:53 | Updated: 17 November 2014, 06:54
A first round of proposals which detail how the council will begin to save £25million to balance its budget for 2015/16 has been published by Peterborough City Council.
This year the council's Cabinet has decided to publish its budget proposals in two phases to enable people to get involved at the earliest opportunity. The first round of savings and investments, sets out how the council plans to save £16.8million.
Residents are now being asked to read the phase one budget document and get involved in the council's Budget Conversation by commenting on the proposals.
A second set of proposals, which are still being developed, will be published in the New Year. These will identify the remaining £8million that the council needs to save in order to deliver a balanced budget for 2015/16.
As part of the Budget Conversation, the council wants to hear the views of the people of Peterborough on what services they value the most out of those where the council has some flexibility over the level of service provided.
Councillor Marco Cereste, leader of the council, explained: "There are some services that we have little flexibility in providing. These include care for the elderly and vulnerable, services that protect vulnerable children and families and waste collection.
"However, there are services that we have more flexibility over and these include maintenance of our parks and open spaces, helping people to lead healthier lives and community work with young people, to name just a few. These are the services that we want you to comment on as part of the Budget Conversation so that we can take on board and understand what services matter to you when we finalise our second phase proposals.
"With so many savings to find, our room for manoeuvre is very limited and it is unlikely that everyone will get the exact outcome they would like. However, it is vitally important, this year more so than any other, that we have the views of as many people as possible before making final decisions."
The city council has seen its government funding cut by 40 per cent in the five years up to the end of 2015/16 - that's £44million.
In the next financial year the council will see its government grant reduced by £12.3million. This is on top of financial pressures of £12.5million as a result of an increasing demand for services and legal changes.
This means the council faces an enormous challenge of finding savings of nearly £25million to balance its books, while continuing to invest in the city to ensure it is a great place to live, work, visit and stay.
Councillor John Holdich, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for education, skills and university, said: "We have been very honest with people about the pressures on our budget this year and in the summer we announced that at that stage we had a £22million gap in our budget for 2015/16.
"Since then we have faced additional financial pressures and have received further information on how national changes, such as the introduction of the Care Act which places additional responsibilities on Adult Social Care, will impact on our budget. As a result we now face a budget gap of £25million.
"Inevitably, less money means very significant changes, not just to the way services are delivered, but the removal of some services altogether.
"So far we have identified savings of £16.8million. However, a further £8million will have to be saved to balance the council's budget for 2015/16. The Budget Conversation will allow us to understand which services matter to people the most, so that we can consider this when drafting our second phase proposals to identify the remaining savings.
"Please take the time to read the phase one budget proposals, or at the very least the Budget Conversation document, so that we can tailor our budget to meet the needs of as many of our residents and businesses as possible."
Cabinet will consider the first phase proposals at its meeting on Monday 24 November 2014 and formally ask people to comment on the proposals and take part in the Budget Conversation.
Comments received up to 5pm on Thursday 11 December 2014 will be considered by Cabinet at its meeting on Monday 15 December 2014. Full Council will then consider the phase one proposals on Wednesday 17 December 2014.
Cabinet will use the feedback from the Budget Conversation to develop the phase two proposals that will be published in January for consultation. Council will then consider these phase two proposals, along with the level of council tax, at its meeting on 4 March 2015.
People can take part in the Budget Conversation by visiting the city council's website at www.peterborough.gov.uk. Included is a link to the budget proposals document and an online questionnaire.
Hard copies of the budget proposals document and questionnaire will be available on Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and in each of the city's libraries.