A thorough consultation and engagement programme was undertaken with the general public, communities of interest, the business sector and the voluntary and community sector.
The consultation ran from 30 November 2016 through to 12 February 2017. Over the course of the consultation the Council received comments from 916 people or groups through the online questionnaire. This produced comments on 1009 different budget proposals for 2017/18 and 2018/19. A total of 188 comments were made that were not specific to particular proposals for the next two years. In addition, we received a total of 239 postal questionnaires and 47 separate representations were made through emails or letters.
The feedback from consultation covered a range of topics. The proposals generating most comments included those relating to:
- Community halls.
- Parks and bowling greens.
- Physical activity, food and nutrition – including the breastfeeding programme in Keighley and some of the healthy lifestyle services run across the District.
- Adults overall demand management strategy – which covers support for disabled people, older people and carers.
- Public conveniences and the remodel of visitor information centres.
- Homestart and Worksafe projects – programmes supporting children, young people and their families focusing on accident prevention and support for vulnerable parents and children 0-5.
It is worth noting that although the volume of responses is important, this does not necessarily suggest greater attention is given to issues with a greater number of responses. For example, according to the Community of Interest meetings (with representative bodies like the Strategic Disability Partnership, older people’s groups, the Voluntary and Community Sectors and BME communities), the proposals regarding Adult Social Care and Public Health were seen as the most significant areas of concern.
Further details on the feedback from the consultation can be found in reports to the Executive Committee on 7 and 21 February 2017 – Committee Minutes home page.
Even though the formal budget consultation has closed, there will be further continued ongoing consultation and engagement by departments and services with interested parties as any proposals are developed and delivered.
How the feedback is used to help influence changes
The information received through the consultation was reported back to the Council’s Executive at its meetings on 7 and 21 February 2017. As a result of the feedback, service managers reviewed the comments and ‘equality impacts’ (how proposals might potentially unfairly affect particular groups of people). We then revised the Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs), which had previously been published at the same time as the Executive’s proposals. These revised EIAs were published on 16 February 2017 on the Council’s website – see Budget EIAs.
Following consideration of the feedback, the Executive, at its meeting on 21 February 2017 recommended a number of amendments to its Budget and Council Tax proposals published on 6 December 2016. These were approved by Full Council at its meeting on 23 February 2017.
Amendments to the Budget and Council Tax recommendations
The following amendments to the Budget and Council Tax recommendations were made following consideration of all the comments and information gathered through the consultation.
- Council tax and social care precept – Given the national shortfall in funding for social care, the Council will apply the Government’s new option of a 3% social care precept for each of the next two years. This means Council Tax will be increased by 4.99% in 2017/18 and proposed to increase again by 4.99% in 2018/19.
- Community and voluntary sector (VCS) support – New funding to help support a strong and sustainable voluntary sector to prosper as the role of the Council continues to evolve:
- VCS Transformation and Support Fund (£250,000 in 2017-18 and £250,000 in 18-19) – To fund costs associated with co-location, merger, cost base reduction or collaboration to secure alternative funding and commissions.
- Community Asset Transfer Fund (additional £100,000 over 2017-18 and 18-19 plus small capital investments when appropriate) – Such as funding transfers to community and voluntary organisations, including parish and town councils, to be assessed on an individual basis.
- Physical activity, food and nutrition – A three month extension to existing contracts in order to give more time for an effective transition to a new tendering process. This will have a sharper focus towards reducing health inequalities through early intervention and prevention but on a wider scale.
- Breastfeeding – The support service will be re-commissioned from within existing resources.
- Homestart – A three month extension of this grant in order to smooth the transition of this activity to the Early Help service for children and families.
- Stockbridge Depot – The Stockbridge depot is to remain open, funded by achieving further additional income from discretionary charges. This is an example of the work to mitigate the loss of government funding and retain valued services by raising additional income.
- Winter gritting – Use income from highways enforcement activities to protect gritting, putting £25,000 back in the budget for each of the years 2017-18 and 18-19. This will be used to restore some routes and fund volunteers to set up local gritting provision in some areas.
Two other issues were highlighted in the amendments. These were:
- Procurement: making the Bradford Pound go further – There will be a review of the Council’s procurement processes, the aim being to ensure best value for the Council; scope the feasibility of a ‘District first’ approach, as money spent locally can help to stimulate the District’s economy; and ensure the Council’s procurement process is working in the most efficient way possible to the benefit of residents, services and businesses. The Chamber of Commerce and the Voluntary Sector will be engaged as a key part of this review.
- Use of reserves – In making its proposals the Executive was acutely aware of the need to use Council reserves prudently on behalf of the District and in setting its four-year plan, it authorised a total of approximately £16.8m of previously designated reserves to be redirected to fund redundancy and transformation costs and to help balance the revenue budgets over the period. In doing so the Council’s unallocated reserves remains at £14m for contingency against risks not accounted for.
In accepting the consultation feedback reports, the Leader of the Council thanked the general public, all the Council’s partners and organisations which contributed to the consultation for their input. The Leader also gave assurances that even though the formal budget consultation closed on 12 February, there will be further ongoing engagement by the Council with interested parties as proposals are developed and delivered.