Last week George Osborne spelt out how an in-coming Conservative Government would tighten the fiscal belt. He was clear in promising that this would be achieved in an equitable way – that we are all in it together.
I couldn’t agree more. I have written before of the need for greater efficiency in local government, that it should look to deliver more for its residents with less. In this economic climate that imperative is irrefutable.
That’s why I’m proud that Essex County Council this week announced it will save £300 million by 2012. This represents approximately a third of our annual net budget. Simply put, it is the largest savings target in local government history.
The authority is embarked upon a major modernisation programme, joining up areas of duplication, eliminating unnecessary processes and waste and streamlining other areas where the council operates. Essex is leading the way nationally when it comes to modernising the delivery of local public services.
Last year we announced a savings target of £200 million to be delivered by 2012. By raising this savings target to £300 million we are re-doubling our commitment to delivering value for money for Essex residents.
This figure is a very tangible commitment to our residents. It will mean there will be no council tax increases above inflation for four years. And there will be no cuts in front line services. This, despite the worst operating environment for 60 years and the extra investment in those services crucial to assisting Essex through this present recession.
We are already making progress towards our goal. This year we set ourselves the ambitious target of £70m efficiencies and savings. We are only half-way through the financial year, and we have already delivered £40m savings. This is real money: cash that is already being invested in front line services.
We are beating our targets we believe we can do even more. That is why we have set ourselves an even greater challenge, one that will see the largest saving in local government history.