Exeter City Council has launched a major public consultation as it looks to save a further £4 million over the next three years.
The authority wants to find out what services are most important to the people of Exeter at a time of deepening public spending cuts.
The City Council’s grant from central government has already shrunk from £12 million in 2011-12 to £7.7 million in the current financial year. Now it is bracing itself for further reductions, to around £5 million, by 2017-18.
So far the Council says it has managed to preserve frontline services by making efficiency savings – but it is warning that this will no longer be possible in the coming years as more savings have to be found. Areas which could be affected by cuts in services include public toilets, street cleaning and city centre CCTV coverage.
The Stronger Exeter initiative seeks to inform the tough decisions councillors will have to make when it comes to setting the authority’s budget for next year and beyond.
Council leader Pete Edwards said: “Like all councils, Exeter City Council faces some difficult budget decisions. Reductions in government spending and additional spending pressures mean that the council needs to save £4 million to balance the budget.
“We have already made savings of £4.7 million since April 2012, but, looking ahead, we will need to do more than make efficiency savings – we will need to do some things differently and stop doing some things altogether.
“To date, most people will not have seen major changes in the way their services have been delivered, in spite of us reducing our net budget by about 25 per cent. But it is inevitable that this will change.” A giant poster inside this week’s Express & Echo marks the start of the consultation exercise. As well as highlighting how investment has boosted Exeter’s economy in recent years, it outlines the financial challenges facing the authority.
Over the next four weeks, under the four headings of Parks and Public Spaces, Helping People, Cultural City and Safer City, a series of special features will explain the services provided by the council, the challenges it is facing, and some of the options for change.
People will be encouraged to complete a brief survey on each topic to help the Council decide its spending priorities.
Urging residents to have their say, Councillor Edwards said: “We want to inform people about the challenges we face and we want the people to inform the spending plans that will build a Stronger Exeter and shape the services that they value."