Councils join forces to balance books
TWO councils are set to forge even closer links in a bid to make major savings to their overstretched budgets.Waveney District and Suffolk Coastal District councils already share a chief executive and are facing up to big challenges to balance their books.
TWO councils are set to forge even closer links in a bid to make major savings to their overstretched budgets.
Waveney District and Suffolk Coastal District councils already share a chief executive and are facing up to big challenges to balance their books.
Earlier this year, Waveney was left reeling after it emerged it may have to find an extra �13.2m and now Suffolk Coastal has revealed it needs to make �3m in savings over the next three years.
Stephen Baker has been chief executive of both councils since last year and the neighbouring authorities also share a head of planning.
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Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal, said: 'Both we and Waveney recognise our looming financial challenges and the importance of facing up to them as early as possible. We will be looking to see how we can help each other become more efficient and provide better services.'
Mr Herring said his council had begun a 'top to bottom' review of all its services and costs, admitting 'difficult' decisions would need to be taken.
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The council has saved more than �8m since 2001 and now wants to cut a further �1m in each of the next three years. The impact of fewer planning applications and land searches, along with increased workloads for its housing benefits team, has hit its finances.
'This is an ambitious challenge, but the financial realities facing virtually all councils mean that we must renew our efforts and begin planning now to ensure that we can continue to provide all our important services and keep our council tax low,' added Mr Herring.
'The impact of the national economic downturn has hit our income and increased demand for some of our services, and will also inevitably mean even lower financial support from central government.
'We estimate that the gap between our current spending an income will grow by �3m and it is unthinkable to pass that bill on ton our council tax payers so we must find ways to cut the costs of our services by 20pc over the next three years. It will be a tough challenge…but we must be ready to make some difficult decisions.'
Waveney was shocked when the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) demanded it repay nearly �9m in benefit subsidies it claims the council overpaid to local residents over several years. It is feared the council may received a further demand of �900,000 from the DWP.
Waveney officials are currently in negotiations to try to reduce the bill after insisting the discrepancy was due to problems transferring paper records to computer rather there being huge overpayments. The authority must also find up to �3.4m to carry out urgent repairs to Southwold harbour.