SUNDERLAND City Council is asking people which services are most important to them as it tries to balance rising demand and falling budgets.
The council will have to save £74m from the money it has available to spend on local priorities and services by 2019/20 as a result of the government’s austerity programme.
This is on top of unprecedented cuts and cost pressures over the last six years which have seen £250m having to be saved.
Council Leader, Councillor Paul Watson said: “The Government’s austerity programme is continuing to cripple the council, alongside increased demands on council services for adult social care as the population ages and more investment needed to support vulnerable children.
“We’ve worked very hard over the last six years to minimise the impact on our residents, communities and businesses by cutting our back office functions, and we’re looking to cut these further to a bare minimum.
“The council now employs 4,000 fewer staff than it did in 2010. Areas where this has had a particularly noticeable impact for the public include grass cutting, litter bins and street cleaning services which saw a 30 per cent reduction in staffing budgets in 2016.
“We know this is a service residents hold dear and it’s one we tried to protect for as long as possible. But while we understand residents’ concerns and share their frustration that we can’t provide the services we once did, we’ve had no choice other than to reduce this and other services because we can’t spend money we don’t have.
“We also understand their frustration at seeing their council tax rise at the same time as reductions in the services they receive.
“But the fact is that only 13 pence in every pound spent by the council comes from council tax – the majority comes from the Government and this has been severely cut since 2010.”
By 2020 the City Council estimates it will have £590 less available to spend for each Sunderland household than it does currently.
In response to this it is continuing to review and reduce the standards of some services at the same time as making sure those in greatest need get as much support as possible.
But it is also asking residents for their help with keeping costs down and making Sunderland a better place by doing things like contacting the council online which is often faster as well as being cheaper, taking their litter home with them and recycling more.
People can also help by being a good neighbour especially if their neighbours are elderly or not well, and considering becoming a volunteer or a foster carer.
Cllr Watson is also asking people to take part in the budget consultation which will help the council decide which priorities are most important and how its limited spending power should be allocated by completing on online survey atwww.sunderland.gov.uk/budget-
“We want people to help us makes the right choices for Sunderland by telling us which services are most important to them but we also want to hear from individuals and communities who are interested in working with us to make Sunderland a better place.”