CONSERVATIVE council leader says ‘tough times’ are ahead but his authority is ‘in a strong position’ and rising to the challenge.
Bob Wheeler, leader of South Derbyshire District Council, spoke after digesting the implications of a 15.5 per cent Government funding cut over five years.
“The council, which prides itself on being a forward-thinking authority, remains on the front foot.
“It is planning for the future with confidence as it provides value for money to our communities.
“We’ve prudently managed our finances and by taking action now we are continuing to make additional all-important efficiency savings.
“Although there are testing times ahead, we are in a strong position as a result of the progress made in recent years.
“Our aim is to continue providing quality services by being innovative in the way they are delivered.”
As revealed by the Mail earlier this week, Kevin Stackhouse, the authority’s head of corporate services, has warned councillors they must slash £300,000 per year from their budget or risk financial ill health.
He said any delay in taking corrective action would ultimately increase the amount of annual savings required.
In a statement, the council said: “Reviews to identify efficiencies further to those made in recent years are to be carried out in a bid to cut costs, not services.
“As a growth area, South Derbyshire may be able to receive extra income from the New Homes Bonus and changes to the way business rates are distributed.”
Councillor Wheeler, who is also chairman of the authority’s finance and management committee, said: “Being hit with this reduction will be a challenge, but it is a challenge we are rising to.”
The authority said there was a strong desire to ensure residents did not feel the financial squeeze more than they already were, with consideration given to freezing council tax for the third consecutive year in 2013-14.
The Government has offered to reimburse authorities’ ‘lost’ revenue equivalent to a one per cent increase for the next two years if they freeze the rate.
The council said major projects, such as the introduction of a new recycling scheme to include plastics and cardboard, remained in the pipeline while investment was being made in leisure facilities in Swadlincote, Etwall, Melbourne and Rosliston.