Thursday, 29 October 2009

Tough decisions to be made

The Council has published its proposals for a new business model to help it cope with the tough financial climate we find ourselves in. The relevent Cabinet paper can be viewed here.

Basically, the new business plan has to cope with the possibility of a very low Council Tax increase next year (officers are even contemplating the possibility of a zero increase being allowed by the Government, with a General Election due next Spring), and a significant reduction in the grants we receive from central government from 2011-12 onwards, perhaps as much as a 10% cut in our grant.

Our existing Medium Term Financial Plan is based on a 4.9% Council Tax increase next year and a 2% increase in our central government grants from 2011 onwards. You don't need a calculator to work out that, in the very worst case being contemplated, the overall reduction in our income, compared to our existing plan, could be over 15%!

How does the Council propose to deal with that? Well, the detailed decisions will be incredibly difficult to reach and will have to be made by the politicians, but at this stage officers are planning a three-pronged approach.

1. Out-sourcing many Council services to other public sector bodies, the voluntary sector or the private sector.
2. Working together with other Councils in the region to achieve economies of scale in the provision of services.
3. Cutting services.

One thing's for sure, although officers are determined that Darlington will retain its individuality, the Council will look very different in the years to come from how it looks now and there could be a significant reduction in the number of directly employed Council staff and in the services they offer.

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