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Council unveils budget based on fairness

Date: 24/02/2012

The biggest ever public consultation on its Budget has led Gateshead Council to change the plans that will be voted on by councillors next week

More than 4,500 people have given their views on the Budget since proposals were unveiled last October. An amended version of the proposals will now be considered by the Cabinet on Tuesday (28 February) before being agreed by the Full Council on Thursday (1 March).

The Council has to save £22 million this year because of cuts in funding from Government and increasing demand for key services such as social care.

Leader of Gateshead Council, Mick Henry, said: "This budget, like last years, is a result of deep cuts by the Government. We faced tough choices and we will have to make some incredibly difficult decisions.

"We’ve been listening to the public’s views on our service and how we should spend our money, so we can still deliver the priority services that residents have told us they want. We thank everyone who took the time to respond and help us with these difficult choices.

"We have produced a budget based on fairness. We listened to what people told us, we looked carefully at the proposals and we’ve taken account of the concerns raised. We’ve made changes to our plans for school crossing patrols, Bill Quay Farm, the voluntary sector and many others.

"We are doing all we can to be fair - protecting the most vulnerable in our community and reducing the impact on frontline services that people rely on.

"We are also freezing council tax so there will be no increase in bills and we have to support economic recovery in our borough.Despite the financial difficulties we’re all facing, we are still determined to work towards our ambitious vision for Gateshead.

"Regrettably, these cuts mean that more jobs will be lost, but we're doing all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible."

The Council carried out a wide ranging consultation on the proposals, including lots of interested groups, businesses and partners. This is the most responses it has ever had on its budget proposals.

Every one of the proposals was carefully considered to make sure that it meets the needs of residents, and that no groups are excluded, overlooked or discriminated against by how services would be provided.

The key highlights of the proposed budget are:

The budget delivers £9 million in efficiency savings by reducing administration, cutting management, making better use of buildings and sharing services.

Jobs at the Council will reduced by 350, around 150 by voluntary redundancy but up to 200 may be by compulsory redundancy.

Residents said they would prefer that people who most used some services helped cover the cost, so fees and charges will increase in some areas, including a charge for pest control, bulky waste and some car parking charges.

Across the country, services to vulnerable adults are under pressure, with an increasing elderly population. Care will continue to be provided for people with critical and substantial needs. Higher cost care packages will need to be assessed to make sure they meet these needs efficiently and effectively.

More than £500,000 could be re-invested to support the most vulnerable young people and their families, working with them at home to try and prevent problems in later life.

People also said they would rather cut back where the Council had a choice – like flower beds, which could now be restricted to formal parks and a small number of prominent spots, rather than other areas like roundabouts. The Council will also work with communities and local groups, where volunteers want to take on the role.

The Council will be producing fewer leaflets but improving its website so residents can find information and make requests online quickly and easily.

The way some services are delivered will change. The Council will work with community groups such with Bill Quay Community Farm Association and continue to provide funding for the coming year to help them become self funding in future.

We will continue to support the countryside team by keeping two posts who will also work with volunteers.

The Council listened to concerns about school crossings patrols and these will continue for the coming year, except lunchtime crossing and those where alternative safe traffic controls are already in place. The Council will also work with schools to identify other ways to continue this service in the future.

The Gateshead Community Fund has been increased to provide more than £1million in grants to community and voluntary groups this year.

There will be further consultation work with residents about other details set out in the plans, including how communities can get more involved in running libraries and community centres as a way of keeping them open




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