My View, Ros Jones: Coping with spending cuts as best we can

Mayor Ros Jones talks to school crossing wardens at the 60th anniversary celebrations. Picture: Andrew Roe
Mayor Ros Jones talks to school crossing wardens at the 60th anniversary celebrations. Picture: Andrew Roe

This week my cabinet and I considered our budget proposals for 2015/16, part of the three- year budget strategy we set last February.

The council faces massive government cuts to the money we can spend running day-to-day services for local people. In May 2010 when David Cameron became Prime Minister, Doncaster Council received £269.8m per year in Government grants. It has now been cut by £122m a year.

No-one likes this situation but we have done our best to protect services and jobs. Where possible we are focusing on maintaining service delivery, increasing efficiency, getting value for money and reducing spending on, for example, the running costs of buildings.

Through good financial management we have cut the estimated number of job losses from an original figure of 1,200 to around 500 over the current three-year budget. Our council tax is rising slightly to help this situation, but Doncaster still has the fourth lowest council tax of all similar local authorities and 60 per cent of households are in the lowest Band A.

But we have a good capital budget, which is for spending on buildings, infrastructure and other assets.

We are not allowed to spend this capital money on running costs, but can invest it, for example, in our schools and on major programmes to create jobs. Projects such as the FARRRS link road are bringing hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of private sector investment and jobs for local people. They will also generate more business rates from companies in Doncaster, which can then be spent running public services while keeping council tax as low as possible.

We can also use capital money to make improvements that reduce running costs. For example, we are investing in LED streetlights, which are more effective and can be controlled centrally so faults are spotted and fixed straight away. There will be less light pollution and lower CO2 emissions. They will save millions in running costs. Money saved can then go on services such as adult social care, tackling anti-social behaviour, refuse collection and street cleaning.

More efficient grass cutting and street cleaning equipment will see savings made, while improving results.

Our new website, launched later this year, will make it easier for people to apply for services and pay for them, and reduce administrative costs.

The financial situation we face is clearly not easy but we are dealing with it sensibly, effectively and as sensitively as possible, while making sure the council is able to provide good services for local people.