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Rutland County Council closes budget and local plan consultations

Rutland County Council recently closed two significant consultations – one on the Local Plan and the other on our latest budget, writes Rutland County Council leader Gale Waller.

I should like to thank every single person and organisation who responded for the time you took to tell us your views. It is important the council’s actions reflect the public’s expectations and aspirations and considering consultation responses helps us do that.

The consultation responses on the budget were interesting. It is worth re-iterating here that since 2010 local councils have had a cut of 27% in real terms of core spending power (CSP) (the term the Government uses to describe what local authorities have to spend). CSP includes council tax so, when the Government announced that CSP was to go up by 7.5%, in Rutland that included an increase of 4.99% in council tax. A 7.5% increase does not cover inflation so, in the short term, Rutland County Council is balancing its budget by using reserves. This is not sustainable – reserves run out eventually – so we have initiated a transformation programme to deliver more for less over the medium term.

Rutland County Council leader Gale Waller
Rutland County Council leader Gale Waller

And the responses to the budget consultation? We obviously agree with the resident who said Rutland should receive more grant from Government; sadly, though, Government does not. We were urged to stop using consultants. As a council we are very careful about the use of such staff. However, we have some short-term requirements that need specific expertise. One element of the transformation programme is IT. We need expertise to advise us how to plan our IT for the future. This is a short-term need. It is far more cost effective to employ expert consultants on a short-term basis than increase our permanent staffing only to have people underemployed when the specific activity is complete.

One resident suggested we use smaller black bins as more and more people recycle. Practically, this is not currently possible as the bin lorries are designed to lift the specific bins we use and to adapt the lorries would be very expensive. The point, however, is very well made. The last time the council made a study of what went into black bins we found 40% is food waste. This is food people have spent their hard earned cash on but not eaten; and this at a time when food bank usage is increasing. I was taught to eat everything on my plate but my parents lived through war time rationing so the message was understandable. Nevertheless, only buying and serving what you need will prevent waste and save money.

Another resident asked about our debt and interest payments. This information can be found in appendix L, of the budget papers presented to cabinet on February 13: www.rutland.gov.uk/meetings. It was also suggested that we review the council tax bands for houses which have been extended. The council has no powers to do this. Council tax bands will get reviewed by the valuation office if a house is sold or if there is a wholesale review of council tax bands, which is not currently being planned. Nevertheless, we will look for lawful income generation opportunities.

Our investment this year in a member of staff in reception at Catmose was welcomed by a number of residents, although there was some criticism of us deploying two members of staff to clean a bus shelter. The staff in question volunteered to do this in their own time as they have pride in Rutland. My thanks go to them.

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