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Council Fund and Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting 2015-16

Published: 18/02/2015

Council Fund The Council has had to find a savings target of over £18M this year as a result of a further significant reduction in Government grant support. This comes on the back of having to find over £20M of savings in the last two years. The savings target for the new financial year is 7.3% of the Council’s net budget. Council Leader Councillor Aaron Shotton said ‘we set out a clear aim as the Council Administration that we would protect front line services to local communities as best we could under growing budget pressure. Whilst there are some challenging proposals in the budget, as can only be expected, we have largely achieved our aim.’ Councillor Shotton added ‘this has been no mean feat. The Cabinet has led the way with the full support of its officers and I would like to put on record my appreciation of the support that all councillors have shown, across the Chamber, in pulling together in the best interests of Flintshire and its residents. At the end of the day we have to set a balanced budget by law, and by working together we have done that.’ The majority of the savings are again found from streamlining the Council and savings costs. This has been the Council’s approach over recent years. Chief Executive Colin Everett added a note of caution in saying ‘We have had to find savings of around £40M over the past three budgets. With another £30M to be found over 2016-17 and 2017-18, based on the latest predictions of the expected impacts of the UK austerity programme on the public sector in Wales, we will have to become more creative and more radical year on year. Savings of this magnitude cannot be achieved by smarter working practices alone. This is why we have been appealing to local communities to work with us under our community asset transfer programme.’ As Councillor Shotton remarked ‘in support of the impassioned statement of the First Minister from last weekend there is a limit to how much our public services can take in the face of year on year cuts. There has to be an end to these UK level budget cuts if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences in the coming years. There is only so much we can do without some financial relief. We need to have sufficient funding to meet the needs of Flintshire.’ Housing Revenue Account Following the overwhelming decision of Flintshire Council tenants to stay with the Council in the 2012 ballot, rather than transfer to a new social landlord, the Council’s Housing service has gone from strength to strength. The much improved Housing service is not only giving tenants a better day to day service but is generating extra money, by working more smartly and efficiently, to spend on home improvements and repairs. This year the Council will spend a much increased £20M annual budget on improvements to homes and by 2020 all homes will meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard. Council Leader Councillor Shotton proudly said ‘we have been on a journey with our tenants. Not only do we now have a much improved service but, for the first time in many years, we will again be building new Council houses as part of our funding agreement with Welsh Government. Despite all the doom and gloom of austerity in the public sector this is a welcome good news story for the people of Flintshire.’ Cabinet Member Councillor Helen Brown added ‘we have repaid the trust of our tenants by taking the service to a new level. Everything we plan to do in spending our money on improving homes up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard is done in close consultation with tenants and Councillors. We work together as a strong team and I am very proud of our achievements.’ Deputy Leader Councillor Bernie Attridge exclaimed ‘this is a ‘red letter day’ for Flintshire. We have a vision for the future for Council housing in the County and the multi-million investment in our 7000+ housing stock over the next five years will create work and job opportunities for local companies.’ Council rents will rise in line with Welsh Government policy to bring council and housing associations in line with each other across Wales. Services charges will remain fair and affordable as promised to Council tenants back in 2012 when they voted on the Choices Document to stay with the Council.