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Cabinet to discuss budget update proposals

Street cleaning and community safety are set for a boost in Darlington as the council looks to use an investment fund of £4.4m to improve the everyday services people rely on.

Darlington Borough Council has today published its budget proposals in the latest revision to its Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP), which covers the four year period 2018/19 to 2021/22.

The Council is on target to deliver the budget agreed in 2016 – which was the subject of intensive public consultation – and funds services which we must provide by law, such as adult social care and winter maintenance.

Despite continuing reductions to the government grant, as a result of prudent financial planning and cost savings the council has built up an additional fund of £4.4m to provide extra support to some of the services that have the greatest impact on residents’ lives.

One area of cost savings proposed in the MTFP is a senior management restructure which will see the retirement of Chief Executive Ada Burns, resulting in a saving of £464,000 over the next four years.

It is being proposed to commit some of the additional fund to improving Street Scene – perhaps through increased street cleaning or grass cutting – and to supporting Community Safety initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Five themes have been identified where the additional fund could be spent, with the aim of addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the borough:  

  • Community Safety
  • Maintaining a clean street environment
  • Maintaining a vibrant town centre
  • Developing an attractive visitor economy, particularly supporting rail heritage and culture
  • Neighbourhood renewal projects  

The Council wants to hear residents’ views about how this money can be spent over the next four years.

Plans for its use will be developed over the coming months and years; in some cases responding to opportunities or issues as they arise or dealing with existing issues.  

As the Government grant to support Council services continues to fall, the need for council tax to rise to keep pace with inflation and increasing demand has regrettably continued. A council tax increase of 1.99% and the Government sponsored Adult Social Care levy of 3% is proposed.  

Following a review of the senior management structure of Darlington Borough Council, a proposal has been made that will see the retirement of Chief Executive Ada Burns.  

The proposal, which must be agreed by Cabinet, Full Council and a cross-party HR panel, would see two roles – Chief Executive and the Director of Resources – merged into one, creating a new role entitled Managing Director.

If the proposals are agreed Ms Burns will retire on May 31 2018.

The current Director of Resources, Paul Wildsmith, will take up the new Managing Director role.

This restructure brings the total reduction in spending on senior management at the authority to £2.7m.

Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “The budget remains very tight as demand grows and the Government continues to cut local authority funding.

“Due to innovative work by our staff we have a small pot of additional funding that we can use to strengthen some of our service areas above what we currently provide.

“We’re looking to put additional funding into some areas where cutting the level of service has made a big impact on everyday lives, particularly Street Scene and Community Safety.

“I know many will ask why, when we have an extra £4.4m, are we still looking to increase council tax?

“The simple answer is that if we want to keep services running exactly as they do now, we need the increased council tax, otherwise we would have to look at cutting essential services even more.

“The extra £4.4m means that we can identify the areas where the just doing the minimum is having a negative impact on the borough and give them a boost.”

The budget will be discussed at Cabinet on 12 December and, if agreed, it will be subject to consultation until February 2018. Final decisions will be taken by Full Council at the end of February 2018.

The full budget proposals and the consultation link are available at www.darlington.gov.uk/budget