People often ask whether it’s worth taking part in consultations – do councils like ours actually listen to what people say?
It’s fair to say we can’t always please everyone with the decisions that we make, however we do listen to what people tell us and take on board what they say.
This year’s budget setting process and the Budget Conversation we have held with residents is proof of that.
Just last month we decided to keep the reduction in council tax support at 30 per cent and not ask people receiving the benefit to pay any more. We took this decision because we listened to what people were telling us and because we understood the impact that reducing the benefit further would have on some residents.
Only this week, we met with members of the bowling community to deliver the good news that we have listened to their concerns and will be recommending to Full Council that this budget proposal be postponed so that we continue maintaining bowling greens in 2015/16.
Our first round Budget Conversation told us that people were strongly against the proposal to stop maintenance of four of the city’s seven bowling greens. They told us that the reduction in the maintenance budget would have a detrimental impact on bowling in the city as clubs would have to close.
As a result, my cabinet colleague Councillor Gavin Elsey has been meeting regularly with representatives of the bowling clubs to see if there is any way we could make the saving we needed, whilst continuing to support bowls in the city.
I’m delighted we’ve been able to find a way forward, which will allow us more time to work with clubs on taking over responsibility for the maintenance of the greens, therefore making the saving we inevitably need. We also want to support them to raise the profile of bowling in the city, so that they can attract new members, perhaps younger members. This will give them the best chance possible of becoming self-sufficient long-term.
There are lots of decisions that you have to make as a council leader that you wish you didn’t have to and they’re usually rife around budget setting time.
We wish we didn’t have to consult on matters like reducing council tax support and cutting maintenance of bowling greens. But the fact remains that we have to, because our government funding is reducing at an alarming rate and we have more and more residents requiring our services.
What’s important to me is that we are honest with the public about our proposals and allow them the time and facility to be able to influence our decisions. That is democracy in action.
There’s still time for people to tell us what they think of our second phase budget proposals. People can have their say by visiting our website at www.peterborough.gov.uk and completing an online questionnaire. Hard copies are also available from the town hall and Bayard Place receptions, and all libraries.
Separate to the Budget Conversation, we’re also asking people to comment on a new libraries service which will see all 10 libraries remain open for a total of 126 hours longer each week, using self-service technology.
The future model has been developed from what people told us during consultation we undertook last summer. For example, people said that they would use their libraries more if they were accessible outside normal hours. The plans will allow people to use libraries for almost 50 per cent more hours every week.
I believe the service we are consulting on will better meet people’s needs with the money that we have available to provide library services. The alternative, as many other councils have found, is for libraries to close and that’s not something any of us want to see happen in Peterborough.
So please, take the time to read the libraries proposal and tell us what you think. Again, there’s an online survey on our website or hard copies are available from libraries or Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions.
- Peterborough City Council leader gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...