Cllr Sean Anstee is the Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Finance of Trafford Council
The Borough of Trafford is the only Conservative controlled Council in Greater Manchester and is home to assets such as the Dunham Massey National Trust estate, Manchester United, Lancashire County Cricket club and Trafford Park – Europe’s largest industrial estate. It is a Borough of diverse communities and one we have been proud to lead since 2004.
Today, we have announced our budget proposals for 2014/15 but before I expand on what we have set out to deliver, it’s important to understand the context in which it has been achieved.
Trafford is already recognised as a highly efficient Council, delivering value for money and high quality services; indeed since 2004 we have achieved £62.3m of permanent efficiencies.
When compared nationally, we are of average deprivation or need yet receive relatively low Government support, being short of the Metropolitan District average by £42.5m, or 3rd lowest of 36 Metropolitan Districts.
Despite this, during this Parliament we have received an above average reduction in Government support by £4.8m; being the 11th highest reduction of 123 single tier Authorities between 2010/11 and 2013/14.
These factors make balancing our budget a constant challenge, yet we approach each savings round with a steely determination and pragmatism to do our very best to protect as many services as possible and do so in much tougher circumstances than many other local authorities.
Next year, approximately 80% of the required £15.9m worth of savings is derived from efficiencies, increased income and change to staff terms and conditions.
An example of this efficiency is our procurement service, whereby several years ago we took a decision to invest in this area to ensure that as large contracts expired we were able to retender at a lower cost whilst maintaining service quality. Such was the success of this initiative, we have joined with Stockport (Lib Dem-led) and Rochdale (Labour-led) Councils to save £4.3m by reducing contract costs through improved procurement or commissioning of goods and services and through market management. You could say our own tri-borough, although multi-colour initiative!
In addition, we have allocated resources on controlling demand for social care services and through introducing Telecare and helping people through reablement services, we have been able to assist residents in continuing to live in their own homes, independently without needing expensive on-going support.
Initiatives like this mean that, for 2014/15, we have been able to freeze Council Tax for a fourth consecutive year, see no reduction in school crossing patrols or the youth service and freeze car parking charges at 10p for the first hour – real help for our Town Centres when they need it most.
Whilst recognising the steps we have taken to control demand, provision has also been made for investment in children’s and adult social services to the tune of an additional £2.7m.
The valuable contribution residents make to volunteering in Old Trafford and Hale libraries is being extended to all locations to ensure that none of our library buildings close; in stark contrast the approach adopted by Labour-led Council’s across Greater Manchester.
The Labour Party in Trafford will, of course, oppose anything that we do to balance the budget and meet the financial challenge we face. Over several years, they have put forward options to scale back our procurement service and abolish our transformation team – both vital to ensuring we can mitigate the obvious implications of reduced funding.
However, whilst I acknowledge our budget contains some difficult decisions it has been produced using the principles that have sustained us all along; those of pragmatism, of a real belief that we are able to make the pounds stretch further and with a constant eye on protecting those services our residents value most.