Derbyshire people are to be asked to help decide how the county council spends its £486 million budget for the next year.
The county council has to slash £51 million from what it spends over the next four years due to cuts in the amount of money it gets from the Government. The £486m budget covers the next financial year for 2018/19. It spends its money paying for services like education, roads and social services and has launched a six-week consultation exercise.
It is asking people to imagine they are in charge of the purse strings and to tell the authority what services are important to them and where they think it should spend more or less money for 2018-19.
The council budget has to be cut after central government bosses cut what they give authorities up and down the country as part of national austerity measures. It has seen many frontline services like community buses hit as councils are forced to cut their spending.
People taking part in the consultation exercise will be asked to choose three areas where they think the council should spend most money, and three areas where they think the council should spend less.
The areas they will be asked to consider include:
• Unlocking economic growth
• Repairing and improving Derbyshire’s roads
• Keeping children and adults safe
• Investing in employment and skills
• Supporting library services
• Promoting Derbyshire as a global cultural and tourist destination
• Encouraging healthy lifestyles
• Improving accessibility in rural communities
For the year ahead its savings target is £22 million, of which £15 million savings have already been identified.
The Tory county council leader Barry Lewis said: "Like councils up and down the country we’re having to manage our budget very carefully, continuing to provide high quality services while making savings where we can.
"We’re working in new ways, cutting out waste, reducing allowances for some councillors and have abolished the post of chief executive and two other top-tier posts to save £300,000 a year. We’re also using some money in council reserves to make sure services people want and need can continue.
"We’re on track to successfully balance the books and are planning a council tax freeze in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
"However, we want to know we’re getting it right for local people and are concentrating on the services that are important to them. That’s why we’re running this consultation and we’re hoping people will take part and let us know what they think."
The council’s budget survey can be found at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/budget and people taking part will be entered into a prize draw with the chance of winning £100 of Amazon vouchers. The closing date for comments is Sunday, November 12.
As well as asking about what services are important to them, people will also be asked about the amount of council tax they pay.
Last year the authority raised council tax by 3.99 per cent, which included an extra two per cent specifically to fund and protect some adult care services for older and vulnerable people, in line with guidance from central Government.
The council is proposing to do this again for 2018-19, which will cost the average council taxpayer an extra 72p per week.
No decisions have yet been made on the budget and the council’s ruling cabinet group members will consider all the responses to the survey before drawing up firm budget proposals, which will be considered in February 2018.
Derbyshire residents will be given the chance to have their say about individual proposals which may affect them after decisions have been made about the overall budget, said a council spokesman.