sccSUNDERLAND people are being encouraged to say what they think should be priorities in the council’s budget at a series of events across the city.

The City Council is facing its most challenging budget yet with Government cuts of £110m predicted over the next four years. This comes on top of the £207m the Government has already cut from the council’s budget since 2010.

This means that while the council currently spends £663m – the equivalent of £5,262 per household – on 700 services to support the city’s 277,000 residents, it will have £873 less for every household by 2020.

People can give their views on which priorities are most important to them in the light of the limited funding the council will have left at a series of consultation events over the next 10 days.

Events are being held on:

West                    Monday 23 November at 9.30 am at Pallion Action Group, 5  East Moor Road, Sunderland SR4 6QW

Washington        Wednesday 25 November at 10.30am Life House, Washington MIND, Grasmere Terrace, Washington NE38 7LP

Coalfield              Thursday 26 November at 10am, Easington Lane Community Access Point, Brick Garth, Easington Lane, Houghton le Spring DH5 0LE

​​North                   Tuesday 1 December at 2.30pm, Marley Park Fire Station, Old Mill Road, Sunderland SR5 5BS

East                      Wednesday 2 December at 2pm, Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden, Burdon Rd, Sunderland SR1 1PP
People going along can also use #SundBudget to tweet during the events and to ask questions about the budget which the council will aim to provide answers to after the final event.

Council Leader, Councillor Paul Watson, said: “Areas like Sunderland are going to be especially badly affected as Government cuts continue to hit local government hard over the next four years.

“In the last few years we’ve tried very hard to protect and improve frontline services by delivering savings in a way that protects people in Sunderland from the worst impact of this financial challenge.

“But we need to save at least £40m in the next financial year. In five years’ time the amount we will have available to spend on local priorities and council services will be half of what we had in 2010.

“That means that by 2020 we’re likely to have less funding for all council services than we currently spend supporting vulnerable adults, children and families, at a time when our population is ageing and demand on services is continuing to rise.

“We’re facing some really hard choices. Given the level of savings needed, we’re going to have to radically rethink some of the things we do and this will inevitably impact on the services we provide.

“This is something we don’t have any option over, legally we have to set a balanced budget otherwise Government will impose one on us but we are trying to do it in a way that will minimise the impact on the people of Sunderland.”

The council has launched an online budget consultation: www.sunderland.gov.uk/budget-survey
to help decide which priorities are most important and how its limited spending power should be allocated.

This asks people for their views on the most important priorities for the limited amount of money available to spend on services by completing a short questionnaire.

Cllr Watson said: “It’s really important that even if you don’t normally take part in surveys or questionnaires, you come along to one of our budget consultation events or give us your views online about what is important to you and your family. Only then can we take their views into account when we’re deciding what our priorities should be.

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“The level of cuts is such that we can’t simply top slice money from council services. We have to work with residents, businesses and other organisations in the city to look at new and different ways of doing things.

“We’ve already done this with Sunderland Care and Support, libraries and more recently with our leisure joint venture with Everyone Active.

“We also need to make sure that we continue to focus on regeneration and attracting investment to our city so we can make it more sustainable and help generate more wealth and jobs.”

“But we will need to review and reduce the standards of some services at the same time as protecting priority services as far as possible and there is little doubt this will be noticeable. ”

The City Council’s budget is set to be agreed at the beginning of March.