In February, full council agreed my financial plan detailing how we intend to deal with the large government cuts imposed on the authority at a time of rising bills and an increasing demand for services.
The situation is still severe. The government’s austerity measures mean that Doncaster Council needs to make a total of £109m in cuts over the three years up to 2017.
However, for the first time the council now has a three-year budget plan and we are dealing with the issues we face head on.
To complete the plan and balance the budget, a further £16m still needed to be identified. Council has now considered my proposals to make the remaining savings and I am pleased that in bridging the remainder of the budget gap we have managed to minimise any further impact on members of the public and front line services.
The money has been found as a result of lower than expected interest and inflation rates along with a number of other measures.
These range from making savings on the pensions costs we face to reducing the number of councillors and senior managers.
New initiatives will enable the council to cut back on costs. Our new street light project, to replace the council’s energy-hungry lamp posts with LED lights, shows that you can improve services and save money. It will save taxpayers an extra £750,000 a year from 2016-17. New and more efficient grass cutting and street cleaning equipment will also help to save money, while delivering better results for local residents.
Our plans to create more jobs in the borough are vital to local people and will also help to protect public services. As well as providing new employment opportunities, more business rates will be generated as key projects start to deliver results. This is money that can be used to pay for local services, offsetting the impact of the government cuts. These projects include the new airport link road, iPort logistics hub and the Civic and Cultural Quarter in the town centre.
More homes to help around 100 people who need support are being built – investing £1.3million over the next three years. New ‘Extra Care’ housing schemes will provide 86 modern apartments for older people with direct access to housing support and a personal care package, helping them to live independently in their own home.
Developing the budget has been a very testing and arduous process but the good news is that we are now starting to see the benefits of our plans to modernise council services and create new jobs in the borough.
The financial situation is still difficult but by creating a more modern council and putting the authority on a sound financial footing, we are able to start reducing the erosion of services caused by government cuts.
The proposals will be formally considered in the New Year.