Your Peterborough budget queries answered - part three

The PT's John Baker interviews Cllr David Seaton

The PT's John Baker interviews Cllr David Seaton


Sunday, 9.34am: This is the third part of our feature putting your questions to Peterborough City Council on its budget plans.

The council’s budget proposals on how it could close a £19 million gap next year are currently out for consultation and residents are being given the chance to have their say on the savings that have been put forward.

Last week we gave you the opportunity to send in your questions to us about the measures they are proposing.

Features editor John Baker puts the man who is politically responsible for the council’s budget, Cabinet Member for Resources Councillor David Seaton, on the spot.

Paul Treliving: Who will collect the brown bin?

If the proposed charge is introduced, brown bins would still be emptied by Amey (formerly Enterprise Peterborough). We are not proposing to take brown bins away from households that don’t sign up for the service. Wheelie bins are provided for the use of the property, rather than to individual residents. If a resident moves house, it is important that the wheelie bins, including the brown bin for garden waste, remain at the property.

We would therefore ask residents to retain their brown bins, even if they decide that they do not wish to use the paid-for service after 27 May 2014.

In addition, this gives residents the option to change their minds, should they wish to sign up for the service later in the year without having to pay for a new bin.

If the new paid-for service is introduced we will write to all residents to explain more about the new service.

Paul Treliving: Why would anyone pay for the brown bin when they can put it in the black bin?

Black bins are provided essentially for waste that cannot be recycled or reused – waste that has to go to landfill, which is expensive to dispose of. We would discourage residents from putting garden waste in their black bin. Instead, residents should take their garden waste to the household recycling centre or make arrangements to compost at home, which the council is supporting by providing the opportunity to purchase a subsidised home composter.

Hotrodders: Why can’t we get a larger GREEN bin as we get more recycle than Landfill!

Large families, with more than five people permanently living at the property, can request a second green bin.

The wheelie bins provided need to be compatible with the trucks that collect them. That said, we believe that the current size is well-suited for the needs of the vast majority of households.

James Werrington: Why are budgets not published on-line giving a full breakdown of what items each budget holder is planning to spend on?

The Council is a large and complex organisation with a budget of £630m each year so to publish the level of detail suggested would be a huge and costly task that would list many thousands of individual items.

I cannot think of any organisation in the world that does this.

However I do believe in transparency so our budget consultation document and full Medium Term Financial Strategy contains a significant amount of financial information, including an overview of the budget, as well as departmental budgets.

We have supplemented this by publishing a breakdown of our budget by service, and the impact that our proposed changes have on each budget. This can be found at the link below:

Peterborough City Council

We also each month publish details of everything we spend over a value of £500. In addition we publish all salaries over £50k and all consultant costs. We do appreciate that the budget can appear complex and always welcome comments as to how we could improve the way we present the financial information.

William Stephens: Could the council be more energy efficient to save costs? I have heard councillors complain about heaters being on and windows open in the summer, and I often see lights on when I walk past the town hall at night, when there are no meetings on?

We are committed to reducing our energy usage and as such are working with the global energy company Honeywell to review all of our buildings and to find investment that will reduce the amount of energy we use in the long term.

Some of our buildings are already fitted with automatic lights that are only on when people are in the room and any computers that may have been left on are automatically shut down each evening to save energy costs.

Nicola Day: How much are Directors and Council Leaders on - can they take a paycut? 

Directors’ and senior managers’ salaries are published on our website and are updated on a regular basis. Directors’ and managers’ salaries

The senior management restructure at the end of last year and subsequent voluntary redundancies led to six senior management posts being deleted. This restructure has saved the council £687,553 in the past year.

The Council Leader and Cabinet Members do not receive salaries although the roles are often more than full time.

All councillors receive a basic allowance for being a councillor and those that hold other special responsibilities such as Cabinet Members and the chairmen and chairwomen of committees receive an additional allowance to reflect their added responsibilities.

A full list of these allowances are available at Councillor allowances

At a meeting of Full Council in December, councillors rejected a recommendation by an independent panel to increase their allowances. It means councillors’ allowances have been frozen for the past five years.

Anon: The chief executive is paid a huge amount of money - could we not offer that job to someone else who would be willing to do it for a lot less?

I do not see a large queue of people wanting to take on such major roles, that are under constant public and media scrutiny, for “a lot less”. And anyone taking on such a role must have the knowledge and skills required.

However as part of the senior management restructure, completed at the end of last year, an independent review was carried out of directors’ salaries – including the Chief Executive.

Our directors’ and Chief Executive’s current salaries were benchmarked against other local authorities and not-for-profit organisations and the Chief Executive’s current salary is mid-range for the market.

As Chief Executive, Gillian Beasley is the principal policy adviser to all 57 councillors and is the statutory head of paid service, responsible for the overall performance of the council ensuring proper financial management of the council’s entire £630 million budget (revenue budget of £380 million and additional capital budget of £250million in 2013/14), that there is proper risk management of all of the council’s activities and that there is proper governance and decision making for all the council’s decisions.

She is also responsible for around 7,500 people the council employs throughout the organisation and in Peterborough schools and colleges.

She is required to devote her whole time to the council, and this routinely involves her working evenings and weekends as well as the standard Monday to Friday business week.

She is also on-call at all other times, particularly as she leads the city’s emergency planning ‘Gold Command’ in the event of a major emergency. No additional payments are made for these extended hours and she has not had a pay rise since April 2008.

Since she became Chief Executive in 2002 the council has won numerous awards as a leading local authority for driving efficiency and innovation and Gillian has advised the government on migration issues.

See more of your budget questions answered: Peterborough City Council answers your questions about its budget proposals for 2014/15 and part 2




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