The Interim Head of Finance and S151 Officer submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to inform Cabinet of the outcome of the ‘Shaping Bridgend’s Future’ 2019 consultation, which asked citizens to share their views on a number of key budget proposals being considered over the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) period.
The report provided an overview of the budget consultation activities, analysis and key findings.
The Chief Executive confirmed that Bridgend County Borough Council had made reductions from its budget of £27.07m over the last four years, with an expectation of significant further reductions required over the coming four years.
He added that a public consultation exercise was undertaken over an eight week period from 9 September 2019 to 3 November 2019. Respondents were asked to share their views on a range of budget proposals being considered between 2020-21 and 2023-24, including proposed increases to council tax and considering cutbacks to services including street cleaning, CCTV, pest control, town centre events, adult learning, education support services, as well as closing one of its three community recycling centres.
The report advised how the budget consultation process in terms of engagement with the public regarding this, had evolved since its introduction in 2013-14, including with a variety of age groups that included the younger generation in society.
Attached to the report at Appendix A was a Consultation Report that set out the views expressed by those who had participated in this this year, with the response rate and methods by which respondents interacted set out in table format in paragraph 4.3 of the report.
Paragraph 4.4 then outlined some headline figures and themes arising from the public consultation and the Chief Executive gave a resume of these, for the benefit of Members.
The Deputy Leader noted that with 3,417 responses having been received to the surveys, this represented a 27% increase compared with last year’s total of 2,677 responses, which he felt was a considerable improvement in the consultation process. This gave the Council a more accurate picture on where the public wanted money to be spent/cut in terms of services the Authority provided, etc.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing extended her thanks to organisations such as BAVO and Halo for also facilitating some of the sessions, that were extended to a wide area of the communities that comprise the County Borough. She noted that 3,417 surveys had been completed and asked how many of these had been completed in welsh.
The Consultation, Engagement and Equalities Officer, advised that there had been 12 responses received in welsh, 5 of which came from the Citizens Panel.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing added that of all the Community Centres and Schools visited, were there any main differences in terms of feedback received from the two.
The Consultation, Engagement and Equalities Officer, confirmed that feedback from younger people reflected that they had more balanced views than perhaps some of the older generation, in that they wished to protect a more variety of services.
The Cabinet Member – Communities felt that the consultation process was becoming more valuable and meaningful year on year as public participation increased during this period. The public were also becoming more understanding of the pressures the Council were facing (also year on year), due to continued cuts to its budget.
The Chief Executive agreed with this, adding that at the consultation sessions, Officers explained to the public, service areas where it was easier to make cuts, as well as other relevant information, for example, the difference between capital and revenue expenditure, etc.
The Leader concluded debate on this item, by thanking Welsh Government for the 4.7% increase in settlement the Council would receive this coming year.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet noted the outcome of the consultation with interested parties as detailed in the consultation report.