The future of funding
The national context
In 2010 the previous government published its Spending Review, it summarised how they were going to tackle the biggest debt the country has had in its peacetime history. At the time, the country was borrowing £1 for every £4 it spent. Paying back the interest on the country's debts equalled £43 billion. It was clear that there was a need for serious debt reduction and so the government outlined where it would make savings. Cuts to local government funding being one of the saving (for more information see Gov.UK, Spending Review 2010).
It is estimated that the effect of government cuts for local government will be a 32% reduction in money between 2010 and 2020. This takes into account all the changes to how money is given and distributed to councils (for more information see Local Government Association, Future funding outlook for councils 2010-11 to 2019-20). The councils will be watching out for the newly formed government's plans over the coming months.
What does this mean for West Suffolk ?
The money we receive as grants from the government will get smaller for the foreseeable future. This is coupled with changes in the way money is given to all councils. This means that we need to become more self reliant and start looking at ways of generating our own income rather than being dependent on the government.
So what do we need to do?
It's clear that we need to both save and make money so that we can continue to deliver the services our residents and businesses expect. The challenge is how we do this without increasing charges or cutting back on services that communities rely on. Reductions in funding in some areas and an increase in the cost of living has meant that some families and local communities are finding it harder to make ends meet. This all adds up to an increased expectation on all councils to support those that need it.
Our Strategic plan sets out our priorities for West Suffolk. By delivering our vision, we hope to promote economic growth, create strong families and communities and to ensure that West Suffolk's housing needs are met. By focusing on these priorities the long term prospects of West Suffolk can be secured.
Our Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) sets out the ways in which we will meet financial challenges in order to carry out our Strategic plan. One of the most important aspects of how we meet these challenges is our ability to behave more commercially.
Behaving more commercially - what does it mean?
It is not necessarily about increasing fees or charges. It is about identifying a need for change - changing how we work and how we approach our work and everyday tasks. Unlike the private sector, councils do not make profits - our income is spent on providing services such as rubbish collections, helping create jobs, homes and helping the homeless.
We need to be able to become more self sufficient and our aim is to shift the balance of where our money comes from. We want to be able to control where the majority of our income comes from with the remainder coming from government sources. We can do this through a variety of ways that can be called 'behaving more commercially:'
- by using the assets we have. We own property, assets and run commercial services (such as commercial waste collection) that can be rented out or used to generate income.
- by reviewing contracts and leases. By evaluating these as they end we can assess what the best options are for us in the long term.
- ensuring our staff understand the commercial agenda. Reviewing the way we work to see how we can work differently, making sure we are doing things in an efficient way and in order to get the best possible results.
- exploring cost saving partnerships
- ensuring we have the best internal organisation possible. It is not about simply reducing staff, but about making sure we have the right teams and processes in place to successfully manage how we are run.
- one voice. Making sure all our teams and individuals understand the importance of behaving more commercially and adopting this.
- understanding our market. Like all organisations we need to understand what's happening in our area, is there a gap in the market for a service or need that we can provide?