City Council Leader Pete Edwards talks about the action the City Council has taken to balance the city’s books and protect services.
“The City Council has faced a brutal challenge over the last two years having to make savings of over £2m each year on its net budget reducing it from around £18.5m in 2009 to £14m now. That’s a cut of 24% – nearly a quarter of our budget. Last year nearly 1500 people completed surveys online, on paper and in the Echo telling us their views on which services should be protected and which should be cut.”
“It’s meant some really painful decisions such as transferring the Scrapstore to a social enterprise run by former staff, cutting grants to the arts and reducing the scope and size of our festivals. Other services have felt the impact of difficult trading conditions, such as our Archaeological Field Unit, which we had to close. And of course government cuts to other organisations have had a knock on effect with funding for many projects being lost.
We also need to look again at the fees we charge for services such as car parking and planning applications.”
Reduction in staff numbers
“Over the last two years we have cut nearly 100 posts through not filling jobs, not renewing contracts, voluntary redundancies, early retirement and as a last resort by compulsory redundancy. It’s always hard to lose staff that have provided excellent quality services over many years.
We are also not shying away from the need to cut management costs. We have just agreed a radical restructure of our management which will reduce the number of senior management posts by over 30%, and save up to half a million pounds.
By taking early decisive action we have averted a potential crisis in the City Council’s funds and made sure we got the Council back on an even keel.”
“We have managed to protect services which target the most vulnerable and give support to those most in need such as housing advice, benefits and grants to voluntary sector partners such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. We have retained our investment in play areas and outdoor facilities for children and young people.
We are also working closely with communities to deliver new areas of work such as neighbourhood planning in St James and in partnership with statutory and community groups in Beacon Heath and Wonford.
We are still carrying out the work needed to support our business community and draw in new firms. This is evidenced by the decision of John Lewis to bring their new concept store to Exeter, the new Waitrose at Heavitree and our vibrant High Street that has major retailers Urban Outfitters and Republic fitting out behind bright hoardings. Already Waitrose has brought more than 150 new jobs and more than 300 are expected to be created at John Lewis.
I believe the two major challenges for the city are the regeneneration of the bus station site, including a swimming pool and housing.”
“Housing is in crisis across the country. There are less houses being built now that at any time in the last fifty years. There is a housing crisis in this city in the private rented sector. Research from Shelter has shown we have the highest rents in the south west. The challenge is not just social housing. We need housing built in the private sector. We are looking at all ways of delivering housing for the people in the city.”
“We are looking ahead.”
“We want to meet local residents and listen to their views about our services, to find out what are the three most important services that Exeter City Council delivers to the people of Exeter.”
“We want to share our vision for the city.”
“For people who can’t come to that event, please let us know what your priorities are by completing our budget 2012 survey online or call 01392 265981 for a paper copy.”