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Elderly and Vulnerable Are Council’s Top Priority, Budget Consultation Shows

Published on: 21 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 21 Jan, 2021

Guildford Borough Council has released results of its budget consultation with residents about how to prioritise spending. And protection for the elderly and vulnerable was top of the list.

The council is facing a predicted shortfall of £2 million next year rising to £4.4 million in the next four years in the medium-term budget plans.

GBC Budget consultation report

A representative group of 1,100 people aged 16 to 65-plus, selected by random sampling, were phoned by an independent, experienced research company called SMSR Ltd. An online survey with similar questions was completed by 381 residents.

This was promoted through website, the local press and radio and corporate media channels. The survey was also shared with all councillors, parish councils, residents’ associations and other partner agencies.

The full report is available at https://www.guildford.gov.uk/budgetconsultation.

Residents who were phoned and those who filled in the survey online said services for the elderly and vulnerable should be the highest priority for spending. Where 10 represented fully funding a service, telephone responders scored 9.10 and those online scored 8.68 for this service.

Graph from GBC’s Budget Survey 2021 report – Click on image to enlarge

They also felt funding for this service should be protected. Other areas which scored highly for residents were: public health and safety, economic services and environmental services. Services for younger residents, leisure centres and parks and open spaces were also rated as important.

The services residents (phone and online) didn’t feel were high priority for spending were arts and heritage, and tourism. They also felt transport and parking and public facilities were less important.

Arts and heritage scored on average the lowest figure of 5.27, followed by tourist services (5.43). Public facilities (6.25) and transport and parking (6.38) also rated lower.

Graph from GBC’s Budget Survey 2021 report – Click on image to enlarge

When asked which services to consider stopping or reducing spending, residents said arts and heritage, tourism and public facilities (toilets) were the three areas to be looked at most closely.

Cllr Tim Anderson (R4GV, Clandon & Horsley), lead for Finance, said: “Despite effective management and savings of £11 million throughout our ongoing Future Transformation Programme, government funding cuts and supporting our communities through the pandemic mean we are using reserves to maintain our services and this is not sustainable.

“Thank you to our residents for their views on which of our services are most important to them. This valuable information will not only help inform our savings strategy but also our new corporate plan to help us continue to best serve and resource our borough.

“For an average ‘Band D’ property council tax payment we keep about 5%, £200 a year. For this £200 we have been able to provide about £450 of services per household through commercial income such as investment property, parking and income from sports facilities which before Covid-19 hit brought in about £21 million each year.

Cllr Tim Anderson

“Last year severely impacted this and we expect to lose about £8 million in income. We’ve had £4.7 million in government support and expect a further £2 million but this leaves us with a £6.7 million shortfall in the current year.”

Cllr Anderson added: “The results of the consultation will be discussed at a meeting of the Executive on January 26. We have difficult decisions to make and we will ensure your priorities are at the heart of them as we address the budget shortfall in the years to March 2025.”

The research also covered how residents were feeling 10 months into the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, nine in 10 were worried to some degree by the effects on the economy. More than two-thirds of those phoned and 65% of those in the online survey were also worried about the health and wellbeing of family and friends.

The results showed that overall 4% (3% of those phoned and 5% of those surveyed) of residents had used the services the council set up to help them through the outbreak so far. These tended to be the most vulnerable residents helped with food parcels, welfare telephone calls, deliveries and financial support and advice.

A spokesperson for Guildford Labour said: “We note that areas which do not immediately affect wellbeing or the local economy score poorly in this survey, hardly a surprise given the timing of the exercise and the lack of context provided.

“But, given that a recent report by KPMG concluded that Guildford’s cultural offer was poor and lagging behind neighbouring boroughs such as Woking, cutting support for this vital economic sector would seem deeply questionable.

Sue Hackman

Sue Hackman, Labour campaign co-ordinator, said: “Surely it is the job of elected councillors to take the difficult decisions rather than hide behind an unsubstantial survey. It is time for the self-proclaimed Residents party to make some tough decisions on behalf of everyone in Guildford. That’s what they are there for.

“We would have more respect for them if they told us what they were planning and asked residents what they thought rather than conducting this empty PR exercise.”

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

Ramsay Nagaty, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, added: “It was the failure of GBC councillors and officers to listen and take on board legitimate and logical concerns raised by campaigning groups that brought about the Guildford Greenbelt Group political party. We fundamentally believe in consultation and transparency of government, so we welcome the budget consultation.

“The council should now listen and respond to the views of residents when setting priorities.

“Consultation is an integral part of the process. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the elected councillors to debate and decide on the merits having detailed information provided by officers of the council as well as submissions from interested parties.”

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test One Response to Elderly and Vulnerable Are Council’s Top Priority, Budget Consultation Shows

  1. Anthony Mallard Reply

    January 22, 2021 at 11:58 am

    I could not agree more with Cllr Nagaty or regret, in equal measure, the “we know better than the electorate” view apparently held by Sue Hackman.

    Sadly, it is that outdated approach that has lost the electorate’s confidence in the mainstream parties of all persuasions and has led to the election of those who do consult and take account of the viewpoint of those who live and vote in the community within which a council spends its income.

    We now await with eager anticipation to see if the elected members take full account of the consultation and its outcome.

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