Consult public over cuts, council is told
A WORRYING precedent is being set by the council hurrying through planned cuts to services without public consultations, according to the Labour group.
The cabinet will not consult local residents on a number of cuts it proposed to make, at its meeting on Wednesday, in order to balance the council’s budget in 2014/15.
These cuts include savings from areas including leisure, revenues and benefits, audit and highways.
It is also likely that most of the cuts proposed for the authority’s budget for next year will be implemented before February’s full council budget meeting when councillors are given the chance to debate the issues surrounding the savings.
However the cabinet’s proposal to move recycling collection to fortnightly and for residents to be charged £35 per year to have their green waste collected, will be consulted on with residents.
The Labour Group Leader, Jim Grant, said: “Not consulting residents on 40 per cent of the cuts proposed in the cabinet’s budget, including on libraries, sets a concerning precedent. “I also understand that some of these proposals plan to be implemented before the start of the next financial year.
“As councillors, we should never lose sight of the fact we are the guardians of the public’s council taxes and they should have a say in how it is spent. “That is why the normal process is that cabinet proposes changes to the budget for the next year which then goes out to public consultation before all councillors have a vote at the full council and get to make amendments to the budget if they wish to.
“I did ask a question to cabinet on this at Wednesday’s meeting and they appeared to indicate that these proposals will be going out to public consultation. “However I was then told the opposite the following day, which makes me think even the cabinet don’t realise that they are not consulting residents on these proposals. “If that is the case I would urge this matter to be rectified and cleared up.”
Leader of the council David Renard said the cuts would be coming from backroom savings and so the public did not need consulting about the changes.
“They won’t have an impact on residents,” said Coun Renard. “We never have consulted on backroom savings so I’m not sure why he (Coun Grant) thinks we should.”
He said this time last year the cabinet pushed through similar changes to financial services.
He added the changes would be made as soon as possible to help save money.
“If we have decided it is the right thing to do then why wait another six months until making the changes,” said Coun Renard.
Library campaigner Shirley Burnham said the proposals to cut spending on libraries should be put out for public consultation.
“It is bizarre that Swindon Council is not consulting on cutting £300,000 from the library budget, if value for money whilst retaining a quality service – rather than the implementation of a political ideology – is at the heart of what the Cabinet and council are trying to achieve. “Councillors and their constituents need to be in possession of the full facts, in order to judge whether or not Cabinet is acting in good faith about the projected savings. “The implications of the proposed strategy must be considered, not just in terms of whether and how the service will be reduced, but its value for money and what the public may be called upon to do to plug holes in the resulting service.
“Swindonians are being dealt a card, without any evidence that this cut and the strategy behind it are based on sound economics. The projected savings should, be subject to consultation.”