Each year Cumbria County Council consults with residents on its budget and on a proposed Council Tax increase. This year the Council considers that the consultation and the conversation with residents, is more important than ever before.
As well as asking for residents' views on the proposed Council Tax increase, they are using this consultation as an opportunity to talk to residents about the significant financial challenges that all councils are facing and to share that there may be some difficult decisions ahead.
This situation is a result of growing demand for council services, while at the same time the funding from central government continues to reduce significantly. The government's recent Autumn Budget did little to ease the financial burden on local councils.
In this context the Chairman of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter of Spalding CBE, (Conservative) has issued the following warning:
"If government fails to fund local government adequately there is a real risk to the viability of some services, and councils. With the combined increase in demand for services such as adult and children's social care and homelessness support this means councils in England face a black hole of almost £4 billion."
Cumbria County Council states that:
"Cumbria has been resolute in its commitment to address these financial pressures and continues be a financially sustainable organisation, while minimising the impact on front facing services. We have worked closely with communities and partners and we will continue to do so. We will continue to find solutions to balance the budget and protect frontline services wherever possible.
"We want to work with you to create a positive future that is sustainable. A future where the customer is at the very heart of everything that we do and one where we have thriving, sustainable communities. We cannot achieve this alone. We need to work with you and have a new conversation about the future and about the difficult choices that we will face together.
"For the last few years we have worked to our Council Plan, delivering savings that have had minimal impact on front facing services. This is the last year we will be able to achieve savings in this way. If there are no extra funds from government we will have no choice but to start reducing services."
Adrian Waite has responded to the consultation in his capacity as a resident of Cumbria and as Managing Director of ‘AWICS'. His principal conclusions are as follows:
Since submitting the response, Adrian has been contacted by a County Councillor who wrote:
"Thanks Adrian for your sage comments on the budgets."
Cumbria House, the headquarters of Cumbria County Council in Botchergate, Carlisle.
Further information about Local Government Finance