Published: February 16, 2011
£1.4million of cuts confirmed by Sedgemoor District Council

Cuts of £1.4m for the 2011/12 budget were approved by Sedgemoor District Councillors on Wednesday (February 16th).

The council has proposed town and parish councils pay for the running of town halls, although this transition will cost £180,000.

A total of 12 posts will be cut from its workforce of 391 and CCTV coverage finances will be slashed by £150,000.

The council hopes to use £450,000 from reserves to make up funding for the next financial year.

Councillors expected a funding shortfall of £1.4m but its settlement from the government left a shortfall of £1.8m. The remaining £400,000 was paid out using the council's balances.

At Wednesday's meeting, councillors also decided to freeze the authority's share of the council tax bill.

Meanwhile, Somerset County Council also made a final decision on Wednesday to make cuts of £34m from its budget.

COUNCIL LEADER DUNCAN McGINTY'S SPEECH IN FULL

Sedgemoor District Council Leader Councillor Duncan McGinty made the following budget speech at Wednesday's annual budget meeting:

"I would like to start with a quote from Harold Wilson - He who rejects change is the architect of decay."

"I suppose in modern day language – and in the words of the TV ad – “change happens”. We may not like it, and we may wish that things were as they used to be ‘in the old days’, – but I’m afraid those days are behind us. I feel that this Council would be failing all of our electors if we did not take the extremely difficult decisions that we have had to, in this harsh financial climate. It is by taking those very unpopular decisions we now find ourselves in the position of ensuring that the Council and the services it provides continue for the future and I present today that all-important ‘legally balanced budget.'"

"Long gone are the days when the Council Leader (of whatever political persuasion) stood up and make a long and self-congratulatory speech about what the Council had achieved over the past year. (even if there is an election looming). In these days, with the increased transparency and engagement it has made the Leader’s speech almost superfluous. It’s not accompanied by the ceremony it used to be, and rightly so. We’ve been discussing, not only how to balance the books for this year but the next five years – since April last year."

"The proposals have been formulated, rejected and refined by my Executive since last summer and have been in the public domain since November. We have discussed with residents, staff and parishes, ways of making scant resources go as far as they could and trying to give all sections of our community what they would wish for. It’s a delicate balancing act which is becoming harder and harder."

"In October last year, we consulted across the District using postal questionnaires, events and interviews at supermarkets in an attempt to reach a wide cross section of residents. We also went out to Bridgwater College in order to engage with younger members of our communities and seek their views. This face to face approach allowed us to talk to many residents, not only on budget issues but service delivery generally. We had a great response to this consultation, thereby allowing us to use this to inform budget decisions with confidence."

"Like all other Councils, we have known that the government grant was not keeping pace with the rising real world costs – and that was without the additional obligations that have come our way from national government. However, this year our grant has been cut by 13.8% - that’s £1.2 million. Next year there will be a further £850,000 to find."

"We are in a relatively fortunate position, in that we have been extremely forward thinking yet prudent over the past years. This built-in flexibility and ability to change will allow us to reconfigure our services, unlike nearby authorities, without too dramatic cuts to service. However, I fear this is the last time we will be able to do so, given the dire financial straits that the public sector finds itself in."

"Sedgemoor District Council is shrinking and will continue to shrink as we face the challenge of reducing staff number by up to 25%. We have ceased funding some discretionary services, which I think of as the stuff we would like to do, rather that we have to do. However, in the majority of cases, we have found alternative ways of delivering – in many cases with very positive and forward thinking partnerships with our town and parish councils and for that I am very grateful."

"The role of a district council is changing from solely a deliverer of public services, to an organisation that plans strategically for the long-term. Putting in place plans that enable the delivery of a strong economy, higher educational attainment and better-quality, better-paid jobs to improve the quality of life for our residents and to provide opportunity."

"In balancing this Council’s budget for the forthcoming year, we have identified savings and efficiencies of £1.4 million, which is 8% of our net annual budget and has allowed us to maintain the priority services."

"We have achieved our budget following the common sense approach of :-

· Reducing costs through improved procurement
· Reducing overhead costs by sharing accommodation
· Undertaking a range of value for money reviews and
· Working closely with our town and parish councils to jointly fund valued local services.

"Despite there being a zero percent rise in Sedgemoor District Council’s portion of the Council tax, I am pleased to say that over the past year we have achieved the following:-

· Completion of phase one of Rosewood Farm re-development
· New play space at Apex Park
· Completed refurbishment of exterior of Town Hall at £1.3 million
· Planning permission for the new pool
· Capital and Revenue Funding strategy for the new pool
· North East Bridgwater, £11 million Kick Start Funding for affordable homes, 2000 new homes and 1000 new jobs.
· £300,000 for Marine Cove refurbishment
· Developments in nuclear
· Secured future for the halls and arts centre
· Rolled out sort it plus door step recycling across the district – a £500,000 investment
· Completed two skate parks in Bridgwater
· Launched the successful Bridgwater Retail Initiative which is to be rolled out to other towns in the District to help traders in the current financial climate
· Secured significant funding from town and parish councils
· Finally achieved a firm offer on the Northgate site after a seven year procurement process

"In conclusion, I would remind you that not only is Sedgemoor delivering for the lowest council tax in Somerset but is, at the same time, regarded as one of the only councils in the entire south west region to have significant inward investment in the short, and long term. This is not by accident, but rather because of our long-term strategies and plans. These are incredibly challenging but exciting times for Sedgemoor with the potential to transform the quality of services provided; new schools; raising educational achievement; new leisure facilities and of course, the ongoing opportunities and challenges of developments throughout Sedgemoor with new nuclear and the jobs that will bring to this district."

"Chairman, Members – I commend to you the budget proposals for the coming year. And in doing so, I leave you with another quote from Harold Wilson to ponder on - 'Whichever party is in office, the Treasury is in power'."



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