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Budget Consultation: Results Report Published

Following a predicted shortfall of £2million next year rising to a total of £4.4million in the next four years in our medium-term budget plans, we consulted with our residents to find out where we should prioritise our spending.

We asked our residents by phoning a representative group of 1,100 people aged 16-65+ years-old who were selected by random sampling. An independent, experienced research company called SMSR Ltd undertook this work on our behalf. We also provided an online survey with the same questions which 381 residents completed. We promoted this through our website, the local press and radio and through our own corporate media channels. We also shared the survey with all of our councillors, parish councils, residents' associations and other partner agencies.

The full report is available at https://www.guildford.gov.uk/budgetconsultation.

Residents who were telephoned and those who filled in the survey online told us that services for the elderly and vulnerable should be our highest priority for spending. Where 10 represented fully funding a service, telephone responders scored 9.10 and those online scored 8.68 for this service. They also felt funding for this service should be protected. Other areas which scored highly for our residents were: public health and safety, economic services and environmental services. Services for our younger residents, leisure centres and parks and open spaces were also rated as important. 

The services which residents (both telephone and online) told us they didn't feel were high priority for our spending were arts and heritage, and tourism. They also felt transport and parking and public facilities were less important. Arts and heritage scored on average the lowest figure of 5.27, followed by tourist services (5.43). Public facilities (6.25) and transport and parking (6.38) also rated lower.

When asked which services we should consider stopping or reducing spending on, residents in the telephone and online survey said that arts and heritage, tourism and public facilities (toilets) were the three areas we should look at most closely.

Lead Councillor for Finance, Cllr Tim Anderson says: "Despite effective management and savings of £11 million throughout our ongoing Future 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 sustainable.

"Thank you to our residents for their views on which of our services are most important to them. This valuable information will not only help inform our Savings Strategy but also our new Corporate Plan to help us continue to best serve and resource our borough."

He explains: "For an average 'Band D' property council tax payment we keep around 5% which is £200 a year. For this £200 we have been able to provide around £450 of services per household through commercial income such as investment property, car parking and income from sports facilities which before Covid-19 hit brought in around £21 million each year. 2020 severely impacted this and we expect to lose around £8 million in income. We've had £4.7 million in government support and expect a further £2 million but this leaves us with a £6.7 million shortfall in the current year."

He adds: "The results of the consultation will be discussed at a meeting of the Executive on 26 January. We have difficult decisions to make and we will ensure your priorities are at the heart of them as we address the budget shortfall in the years to March 2025."

In addition to asking our residents for their views on our future spending, we also took the opportunity to check how they were feeling 10 months into the Coronavirus (Covid 19) pandemic. Unsurprisingly, 9 in 10 were worried to some degree by the effects of the pandemic on our economy. Over two thirds of those phoned and 65% of those completing the online survey were also worried about the health and wellbeing of family and friends. The results showed that overall 4% (3% of those phoned and 5% of those surveyed) of residents had used the services we set up to help them through the outbreak so far. These tended to be our most vulnerable residents who we have helped with food parcels, welfare telephone calls, deliveries and financial support and advice.

Published Monday 18 January