Council launches budget consultation in the face of cutbacks

Launching Ashfield District Council's budget survey are council leader Coun Cheryl Butler, Coun Tim Brown and Coun Jim Aspinall.
Launching Ashfield District Council's budget survey are council leader Coun Cheryl Butler, Coun Tim Brown and Coun Jim Aspinall.

Government cutbacks have forced Ashfield District Council into cutting more than £470,000 in its forthcoming budget for 2017.

On Monday (October 31) the authority is to launch a public consultation on cuts reorganisation and commercialisation of key services.

Council chiefs say by taking a ‘creative and innovative’ look into new areas and ways of working the authority will be able to make savings so vital public services can be maintained.

The council has produced 5,000 copies of a booklet with tick boxes where residents can say whether they agree or disagree with the changes - or complete the survey online.

The final decision will be made early in the New Year. The Council Tax rate will be set on February 27 and the council will meet immediately after to approve the whole budget.

Council leader Councillor Cheryl Butler said cuts meant the council had to save £3.4 million over five years, which equates to £670,000 annually.

The authority has already saved £500,000 in taking Ashfield Homes back under its auspices. Of this £200,000 has gone into the authority’s General Fund which meant that savings of £470,000 had to be made this year.

She said: “The authority is keen for as many residents of Ashfield to have their say.

“This is a time of great change for the council because the funding the council receives is reducing rapidly and we know our residents are really interested in the council’s services and how they are provided.

“There is plenty of time for people to have their say before the survey closes on Monday December 12 and I would like to encourage everyone to have their say. The quickest and simplest way to have a say is to go online and complete the survey.”

Savings identified in the policy and budget consultation include:

The possibility of ending cash collection services at its four main offices, which it estimates will save £93,000 annually.

Many councils have modernised their arrangements so that they no longer handle cash but increase the number of different ways that residents and businesses can pay their bills. Alternatives would be payment by direct debit; payment with cash or debit cards at pay point outlets and post offices; via the Internet and by telephone.

The council’s chief executive Rob Mitchell said: “We have opportunities to move staff into other jobs and roles. Job losses would be minimal if any.”

Handing Selston golf course over to a third party to running as a commercial venture or turn it into a community park would save £50,000.

The council is working with Selston Parish Council to explore future options for the site . One option would be to transfer the site to a third party who, under the over view of the parish council would look to develop the course an run it as a commercial venture.

A second option would be to close the onsite cafe and turn the golf course into a community park available to all residents. Both options would significantly reduce the cost the district council.

Providing small wheelie bins for glass collection and extending collections from four to eight weeks would save £50-70,000 a year.

Although the authority collects over 2,000 tonnes of glass per year research hs highlighted only nine pe cent of households put out a blue box every collection suggesting the current four week collection is not required.

The council is considering whether to extend this to eight weeks and providing residents with a 140 litre blue bin to use instead of a box which would be double the capacity of the blue box.

The authority is working on a five year transformation programme for leisure provision, prioritising the main sites of Lammas in Sutton, Festival Hall in Kirkby and Hucknall Leisure Centre. Feasibility work will be undertaken on the replaecment of the Festival Hall in Kirkby, with the option of a swimming pool The council is seeking opinion on options for Huthwaite and Edgewood.

Since 2010 the funding the council receives from government has been reduced by £5 million and cuts will continue so that funding is halved by 2020.

The authority has set out a strategy to meet the financial challenge.

It has already reduced the number and layers of management, shared services with Mansfield and other councils, raised more income and reduced the number of buildings it occupies.

It has already announced plans to invest in new business ventures and services to generate additional income, review all existing services to ensure they are efficient meeting customer needs and introduce technology to reduce costs and increase efficiently.