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Ambitious plans to close budget gap

News release issued:

Ambitious plans to close Wyre Forest District Council’s budget gap are being discussed by the council’s Cabinet next week.

It is estimated that the authority has a funding gap of £2.7million a year. Its financial position has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council has incurred additional costs due to Coronavirus and a significant drop in income due to the pandemic, but the impacts have not been fully covered by the government.

These financial pressures come on top of nearly a decade of austerity. Government grants to the council have been reduced from £1.02m in 2010 to zero in 2020. Over the same time period net expenditure on services has reduced by 25%

The Cabinet is meeting on Tuesday 10 November to discuss its plans. The main concept is of a smaller council that protects front-line services. They will be discussing how all services can be delivered differently. This could include more shared services with other councils, moving local assets and services to town councils and joint ventures with the private sector.

Other proposals up for discussion include commissioning a business case on Wyre Forest House to look at the financial impact of disposing of some or all of it. They will also be considering ending the community leadership fund which gives each councillor £1,000 a year to support local organization and activities. The number of councillors could be reduced too. The Cabinet will be discussing whether the Council should ask the Boundary Commission for a review to reduce the number of councillors further from 2027.

Residents and businesses will get their chance to have a say on the ideas in a public consultation which will take place later this month and during early December. The survey will be available on the council’s website from Wednesday 11 November.

Councillor Graham Ballinger, Leader of Wyre Forest District Council said:

“Once again we are faced with very difficult decisions. The council’s financial position is getting worse and we need to implement big changes to close the budget gap.

“Wyre Forest District Council collects Council Tax but the majority goes to other organisations. We keep only around 12% of it. This helps to fund providing our services. Our proportion of Council Tax has gone up by only 11 per cent in the past decade. This is well below the rate of inflation, and in real terms it has fallen.

“We hope that the Government will recognize the financial plight facing this authority and virtually all other councils. We would like greater choice about Council Tax increases in the future. If we are given more flexibility we would consider increasing our proportion by £8 or £10 at Band D, which would be about 40p to 50p a week. For most people it would be a lot less than this because most households fall into Band B. We will be asking residents’ views on whether they would be willing to pay this small extra amount to keep essential local services going.”

The Cabinet meeting can be watched live on our local democracy page. It starts at 6pm on Tuesday 10 November. A recording of the meeting will be available to watch.

Recommendations from the meeting and feedback from the consultation will be brought to the Cabinet meeting on 22 December as part of the full Medium Term Financial Strategy Report.

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