Answer: The reason we undertook the exercise was to get a reflection from the community on the city council’s budget. This was probably one of the most important consultation exercises we have done and we intend to carry on these exercises in future.
The context was the unprecedented reduction in the rate support grant. It meant we were planning to reduce the budget by about £5m but we were informed that this was now likely to be double.
Some 80% of the Council’s budget comes from the Rate Support Grant and therefore the reduction in grant has a significant impact on the budget.
The Council had used a questionnaire-based survey to engage with a wide a range
of people to seek views on:
• What Council services matter most?
• How could the Council do things differently to save money?
• How could people get involved in helping to save money?
The survey was done in a number of settings. It was clear that going to people was more effective than asking them to come to us. There had been over 1000 responses This was statistically significant. Officers are 75% confident that the opinion/results would be repeated if everyone in the population were interviewed - and are not the result of chance. The Citizen’s Panel and the ‘Pop Up ‘events had proved to be very successful.
The feedback shows 60% of responses very much go along with the spending arrangements of the Council. Namely:
• Care for the elderly and vulnerable adults
• Waste, street cleansing and recycling – The liveability agenda
• Education and skills
• Care for children and young people
We asked how the Council could do things differently to save money and some 21% of those who responded said we should support volunteering. We need to listen to that outcome and make sure we can invest in volunteering to the extent that we can.
An example was raised during one of the consultation sessions was educating people about littering the streets and there could be role for volunteers in getting that message out. Also in terms of waste, if we could encourage 70% of people to recycle waste we could save £1m.
The report to be presented to Cabinet will not be a final version. It is subject to further consultation, consideration and discussion. The Cabinet will not take a decision but that will be a matter for the full Council in February.
I commend the process. It needs to be developed and continued. Most importantly people welcome the engagement and the principle of being consulted and most people realise what an enormous task the Council is facing and are sympathetic to that position. We need to listen to residents and act.