Tough times

THERE are challenging times ahead at Fenland Council as it looks at making further cuts totalling more than £2.9m over the next two years.

But Council Tax payers will have their say on where those cuts are made early in the New Year.

Fenland Leader Alan Melton made the grim announcement at a meeting on Thursday.

He said the council had anticipated a reduction in Government finance and set a target to reduce spending by £2m this financial year.

This was on target to be met and a further £340,000 worth of savings had also been identified.

However, Mr Melton said that Government announcements in June and October led them to anticipate a shortfall of £450,000 in 2010/11 and £2.88m over the next four years.

The council had started a complete review of services and management, with a commitment to maintain front line services.

Last Monday the council heard its Government grant would be cut by 18.8 per cent leading to a reduction in spending power of almost nine per cent - or a £1,689,712 cut in cash terms.

Mr Melton explained they had already identified additional savings of £450,000 for 2010/11 and anticipated and budgeted for further savings for the new financial year of £1,050,000.

Monday’s announcement means the council will have to find an extra £784,000 of savings. The council had projected a need for savings of £598,000 for 2012/13. However, the council will now have to find a further £477,000.

“This means for the two fiscal years 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 we have to find a cumulative savings target of £2,909,000.

“This will mean many challenges.. It is my duty as leader and portfolio holder for finance to ensure that the council approves a balanced budget. I have therefore asked portfolio holders and officers to take a further look at all budgets.

“I have decided the current practise of public consultation is no longer cost effective and is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

“I am therefore proposing that a simple questionnaire be distributed to our council taxpayers, asking for their priorities” said Mr Melton.

He concluded: “This is a tough statement, but in the interests of honesty and transparency, it is our duty to tell the people of Fenland how it is.”