There were more than 38,000 responses to Nottinghamshire County Council’s Budget Challenge, making it one of the largest consultations ever carried out by the authority.
From completing the paper or online copies of the official survey and signing petitions, to writing letters, emails and tweets - the people of Nottinghamshire have been having their say on 50 different proposals, which budgets they think could be reduced and what the Council’s priorities should be.
Councillors are now considering how to respond to the consultation, with any potential changes to the draft proposals to be announced before the budget is set on 27 February.
The Council is being forced to reduce its spending by £154m over the next three years because of devastating cuts in funding by the Government for local services.
As well as cutting costs through efficiencies, such as sharing services with other councils and introducing a greater use of technology, the Council has been left with no option but to cut back on a number of services.
The Budget Challenge consultation lasted for 20 weeks, from 2 September 2013 to 17 January 2014. In total, there were 38,412 responses during the campaign, including:
7,982 responses through questionnaires, comment cards, letters and emails
3,750 ‘standard’ letters about proposals to reduce Supporting People funding for some homeless services
24,252 signatures on 32 separate petitions about individual budget proposals
Over 2,000 responses to consultations on individual proposals
The Council will take responses to the consultation into account when making any revisions to the initial proposals.
Councillor Alan Rhodes, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The scale of the response to our consultation shows just how passionately the people of Nottinghamshire care about their local services and how keen they are to protect them. I share their passion for local services and also their concern that so many are now under severe threat because of damaging cuts in Government funding.
“I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to respond to the Budget Challenge. We are reviewing all the responses with a view to amending some of the proposals, particularly those affecting vulnerable people. However, the Government’s cuts mean we also need to be realistic about the services we can still afford to deliver.
“We are implementing a range of new initiatives to improve efficiency and reduce costs to try and reduce the impact of the funding crisis being forced upon us. However the scale of the cuts in Government grants we are facing means, sadly, that significant reductions in our services are inevitable.”
Major findings from responses to the Budget Challenge consultation (excluding petitions) were:
75% of respondents said they felt more informed about the Council’s budget position after taking part
Given inevitable reductions in service, most respondents said they would be prepared to accept a lower level of service (eg reduced hours)
Most people (45%) backed a Council Tax increase of 1.99%, given options ranging from a 1.99% to 5% increase
Proposals which received most opposition were savings to the supporting people budget and changes to employment services for people with learning difficulties
Proposals which received most support were a reduction in the Councillors’ Divisional Fund and renegotiation of the waste management contract.
A full report on the consultation’s findings will be presented to the Council’s Finance and Property Committee meeting on 10 February.
Any changes to the initial proposals will be considered when the final budget is set at the Full Council meeting on 27 February.
The Council is calling on the Government to provide fair funding for services in Nottinghamshire through the Fair Deal for Nottinghamshire campaign, www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/fairdeal.