Council asks for public opinion on service cuts
WOULD you be willing to pay more Council Tax to prevent cuts to the services you value across Cambridgeshire?
That’s the question Cambridgeshire County Council is asking residents in an online consultation over budget cuts in the county.
The council is seeking opinions over the direction services should take in the next five years and wants taxpayers to take on the role of councillors – allocating virtual budget funds to the services they deem most important, and suggesting cost-cutting measures in those they don’t.
They can choose between reducing road maintenance budgets to put more money into services for the elderly and troubled families, or cutting cash from libraries and community centres to invest in back-to-work schemes.
After identifying their priorities, residents are asked if they would be willing to pay more for the services – and if so, how much.
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Councillor Mac McGuire, the council’s deputy leader, said the consultation reflected the new leadership team’s willingness to “take into account new ideas and initiatives” and shape services accordingly.
CCC needs to make �540million of cumulative savings in the next four years, and revealed its plans for meeting that target in January, including a freeze in Council Tax precept until 2016/17.
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Some of the measures suggested included cuts to school and public transport, youth and children’s services, libraries, and a “managed decline” of the county’s roads.
However, the last three years of the five-year Integrated Plan were subject to change, and the council is opening the matter to consultation after changes in Government guidance.
Cllr McGuire said: “This is the largest public consultation we have carried out in recent years.
“The views of communities are vital in shaping services. We have deliberately started earlier so we can fully assess people’s views as part of the budget-setting process.
“We are building on the budget exercise carried out last year so we can shape future years and properly plan services and how they may transform.
“The consultation puts residents in the place of a councillor and some of the difficult decisions we have to make. This year we are also investigating people’s views on the council investing in large scale projects that could improve the quality of life for residents and deliver initiatives quickly that our communities want and need.”
INFORMATION: The online consultation is available at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/budgetconsultation and the phone line for those with visual impairment is 0345 045 5213. The consultation closes on October 7 and the findings will be made public in December.
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