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Budget Consultation: Where should we prioritise our spending?

We are asking residents to have their say on where we should prioritise our spending after medium-term budget plans considered by the Executive last week predicted a shortfall of £2 million next year, rising to a total £4.4 million in the next four years.

We would like to know where our residents think we should save money and where we should prioritise spending. The survey will run until January and will show us which services are most important to them and which are not as important.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Joss Bigmore said: 'These are challenging times. Despite effective management and careful savings of £11 million through our ongoing Future Guildford Transformation Programme, government funding cuts and supporting our communities through the pandemic mean we are using reserves to maintain our services and this is not a sustainable situation.

'Some residents may feel their council tax payments should provide us with all the income we need to keep our borough going, but this is not the case. From the average 'Band D' property council tax payment we keep just 9% of the total for our own services. This means for a 'Band D' home we receive around £200 per property each year.'

He explains: 'For this £200 (or 9%) we have been able to provide £450 worth of services to our residents across a wide range of activities. We've done this through commercial income such as investment property, car parking and income from sports facilities which bring in around £21 million per year. This year, with the Coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak and most of us staying safe at home and following the government guidance to protect the NHS and each other, this additional income has been severely impacted. We expect to lose around £8 million income and expect to spend an additional £5.4million providing extra services such as hot and cold meals and helplines to support our vulnerable communities. We've had £4.7 million in government support and expect a further £2 million which makes £6.7 million in total, leaving us with a £6.7 million shortfall.' 

Lead Councillor for Finance, Cllr Tim Anderson said: 'Another misconception is that we earn substantial income through our borough's business rates. We actually keep around 5% of this and the rest is distributed throughout the country. Local Authorities need to work within the limits of public sector rules, for example just selling a building won't solve the problem. It is a fixed capital cost. We are unable to borrow money for day-to-day running costs so this is why we must make savings to bridge the deficit. There are difficult decisions ahead and our residents will be part of our decision making process every step of the way.'

Our online survey is available here: www.guildford.gov.uk/budgetconsultation and in addition we are running a telephone survey of approximately 1100 residents.

Published Wednesday 2 December