Stockport Council’s Executive have approved plans to make savings of £15.5m over the next two financial years, of which around £10m will be achieved in 2013/14.
The successful implementation of these savings will reduce the amount required to ensure a balance budget next year. Although the exact amount still to be found will not be known until the government announces the Council’s grant figures this week, it is anticipated that up to a further £6m of savings could be needed next year and another £8m in 2014/15.
The Executive agreed to consider a final set of recommendations to achieve a balanced budget at its meeting on 18th February 2013.
Following two years of a Council Tax freeze, it is proposed that there is a Council Tax increase of 2.5 per cent in 2013/14.
Savings were agreed following a three month period of consultation during the autumn with the public, service users, employees and Trade Unions. Over 1,500 people provided comments on the proposals.
Following responses from the public, amendments were made to the proposals. The proposal to reduce the opening hours of Stockport Art Gallery will be delayed to consider alternative options one of which is working with SK Arts. The Council has decided that the eligibility criteria for free school transport will now not change, and is also revising changes to managing local and district shopping centres.
As a result of the consultation, changes have been made to the proposed Council Tax Support scheme which means that some people occupying a property specific to their disability needs will be exempt from the cap on the amount of Council Tax support they can receive. It is proposed to make some very low income groups exempt from paying a non-dependant deduction instead of £5 per week which was initially proposed. A larger discretionary fund is needed so the proposal is to increase this from £50,000 to £250,000.
Councillor Sue Derbyshire, Leader of Stockport Council, said after the meeting: “We agreed tonight to make savings of over £15m, with £10m of those in 2013/14. There is likely to be up to a further £6m to be identified but we have significant progress towards a balanced budget for the next financial year and I am confident that we can find the additional savings.
“We have eight key principles underpinning the savings proposals and have carried out a very transparent and inclusive consultation. We listened very carefully to what residents had to say before putting forward the proposals which have been agreed tonight. I would like to thank everybody who took part in the thorough and extensive consultation for letting us know their views on the services we deliver and how we deliver them in Stockport. Important changes were made following this consultation.
“The people of Stockport are our top priority and we are committed to providing them with the best possible value-for-money services.” Cllr Derbyshire added.
The revised proposals by the Executive on 17th December and the full report is available online.
Further savings will be presented to the Executive on 18th February and the final budget proposals will be presented to the Council meeting on 5th March for approval.
The measures will result in the Council’s workforce being reduced by around 145 posts, the majority of which will be achieved through voluntary redundancies and taking out posts which are vacant. The Council is doing all it can to minimise the need for compulsory redundancies and is working closely with the Trade Unions.
Cllr Derbyshire added: “We have consulted thoroughly with residents and this has clearly shown that they are in support of the principles that underpin our changes. Once again I would like to thank everyone who took part. It has been valuable to read the feedback. We are determined to continue improving life for everyone in Stockport by giving increased value-for-money and with organisations working closely together.
“In Stockport we are seeing many positive results including our primary schools being rated as the 13th most successful in the country, and our residents again being the best recyclers in Greater Manchester, putting the right thing in the right bin, and saving us millions of pounds each year in landfill charges.
“We all know these are extremely difficult financial times but Stockport is proud to be meeting the challenges and we’d like to thank everyone who is doing their bit to ensure this borough means business.”