|Crunching the numbers: Wigan Council reveals its budget for the next 12 months
Wigan Council has to make more than £18m worth of savings in the next year as the money it gets from the government continues to fall.
The annual budget was agreed at a meeting last night (Wednesday 6th March), at which councillors backed a two per cent increase in council tax. The rise was described as unfortunate but essential to ensure the budget was balanced for the financial year starting in April.
The council has already made significant cuts to its budget including reducing back office costs by a further £2m and agreeing a shared IT contract with Bolton Council that will save £1m a year. But, with a shrinking grant from government, a further £18.8m needs to be cut in 2013/14.
Councillors have insisted front line services and support for vulnerable people will be protected. But cuts are inevitable and among the savings being considered is a £5m cut from the social care budget. The public will be consulted before any changes are made.
Lord Peter Smith, Leader of Wigan Council, says there will be some tough decisions ahead. He says: “Despite the government’s cutbacks, we have been working hard to make sure our front line services are protected as best we can and this will continue. Over the last two years we have reduced our ‘back office’ support services by around 40 per cent and we will continue to look at where we can become more efficient, such as through our new IT contract in partnership with Bolton Council.
“There will be some challenges ahead. For example, we have planned to save around £5m by modernising the way we provide social care, this will mean significant changes for some people, but we aim to do it in a sympathetic and co-operative way.
“I also want us to make sure we take an imaginative approach to making the savings, such as by investing in our road infrastructure we can bring down repair costs. We are also reducing to one large ‘super depot’- this will save money and make us more effective at what we do.”
The budget approved last night will see council tax rise by two per cent. This increase is made up by a 1.1 per cent rise in the transport levy and a 0.9 per cent council tax rise. This will keep the increase below the government’s cap and means it will not trigger a referendum to approve it.