I am pleased to say that we have passed a budget for 2014/15, which has sought to balance the impact on both the council tax payer and frontline services.
There will be no increase in council tax and no additional cuts to services for this financial year.
When we took over the running of this council in 2010 we had the impossible task of agreeing a budget in just 17 days. This became even more difficult when one week after it was set, the government increased the level of cuts from £50m to £64m. On top of this our partners in the police, NHS and other public services have seen a similar level of cuts. By the time these cuts are fully implemented, the borough’s residents will have seen a £158m reduction from the planned council spend.
The first decision we took as a new leadership was to stop to the salami slicing policies of the previous administration. By re-examining the supplier contracts that we inherited we immediately identified significant savings. We saved money by bringing back in-house our property, highways, payroll and IT services. Cutting the wage bill for managers within the council freed up a further £1.5m and allowed us to implement a Living Wage for all staff. Being more efficient has allowed us to keep all of our libraries, sure start centres and community centres open.
We continue to provide services to our residents and invest in the regeneration of the borough. We are investing £10m into improving our highways. There will be funds available to re-energise Rochdale town centre and continue our investment in the four townships. As part of our ambition to be the greenest borough in the country, we will be generating our own energy, a zero cost initiative which will deliver savings to the taxpayer. This budget will allow us to protect our most vulnerable citizens and continue our investment in children’s services
Although we have delivered a robust budget for 2014/15, we will still face significant challenges for 2015/16 and beyond. The budget that was approved identified a funding ‘gap’ of £51m over the two year period 2015/16 and 2016/17. We have already started the preliminary work to consider how this may be achieved and we are working hard to minimise the impact this will have on our residents.
We have been through very difficult times and we will continue to strive for excellence and provide value for money to the taxpayers of the borough.
Rochdale Borough Council - We are a council which builds success and prosperity with our citizens and partners, whilst protecting our vulnerable people.