A number of key decisions about Chesterfield Borough Council services are due to be considered on Monday 5 February, as the authority seeks to address the impact of significant and long-term funding shortfalls which are affecting local government as a whole.
Like local authorities across the country, the council is facing unprecedented challenges in balancing its budgets – due to factors largely beyond its control – whilst ensuring the continued delivery of essential services and support for the most vulnerable within its communities.
Pressures include ongoing risks and uncertainties over future Government funding (which is already less than half of that which was provided to councils in 2010), the long-term financial impact of Covid-19, rising demand for services due to the cost-of-living crisis, and a period of exceptionally high inflation which means the cost of buying goods, services and contracts has risen across the board.
A range of budget savings proposals were agreed in principle by the council’s Cabinet in November which, taken together, would help the council meet its legal duty to set a balanced budget for the financial year 2024/25 and contribute ongoing savings in future financial years.
A number of reports which set out some of these proposals in more detail – and which take into account the views received in the council’s recent Budget Conversation, and via the petition process – will be considered at meetings of the council’s Cabinet, and Joint Cabinet and Employment and General Committee.
Councillor Amanda Serjeant, deputy leader and cabinet member with responsibility for finance and asset management, acknowledged that difficult choices must be made, adding: “We have been open and honest with our communities about the unprecedented financial challenges which the council – like local authorities nationwide – is facing due to factors largely outside of our control.
“As responsible community leaders we’ve had to face up to this stark reality and be clear that doing nothing is simply not an option. We have some very difficult choices to make, but at the heart of our approach is a steadfast commitment to protecting the essential services that the most vulnerable people in our communities rely on.
“Substantial savings have already been made over the last 18 months, but without significant and urgent reform of the way Government funds councils to provide services for local people, much more must be done to address budget gaps stretching into the millions.
“In November last year we published a range of saving proposals to help us address these gaps, and we also started a long-term Budget Conversation with our communities to ask for their views about how and where we prioritise our spending, and how we deliver our services in the future.
“Thank you to everyone who had their say in the Budget Conversation, or who shared their views with us through other engagement channels and forums – your views are helping to shape how our services will be delivered in the future.”
The savings proposals being considered on Monday 5 February include:
- Introducing a small charge for the collection of garden waste
- Re-shaping the visitor information service to be more digitally focussed. The proposals include the closure of the Visitor Information Centre in Rykneld Square, and seek approval, in principle, to re-purpose the building to support the development of a Crooked Spire visitor experience, in line with the aims of the council’s visitor economy strategy.
- Changes to how some of the council’s community buildings are managed and used including Hasland Village Hall, Assembly Rooms and Revolution House.
A range of other savings proposals which were also approved in principle by Cabinet in November 2023 will be brought forward over the coming weeks, as the council accelerates implementation of its budget strategy.