Budget looks to make £1m savings

FOREST Heath District Council will balance its books by being more entrepreneurial and business-minded, according to its leader.

The council’s budget for the year was announced this week with the authority looking to save £1 million a year.

Leader James Waters said the council would be looking to engage with local stakeholders to make those savings.

“We will work with businesses and developers and hear the voices of the town and parish councils.

“It’s a bland and safe budget that we’ve laid out but we need to make money to be able to spend it on services.”

Cllr Waters said economic development was the council’s primary focus in coming years.

And the council will be trying to get ‘more from less’ as it prepares to share services and management with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, according to Cllr Waters.

But Lynda Pope, head of finance, ICT and audit, said the council would also be spending £1 million to bring in new processes to make the authority more efficient.

These include IT systems to allow planning applications to be completed online, 24 hours a day.

She said the current financial climate was the ‘most challenging’ the council had faced.

The specifics of the shared services arrangements will be laid out when the council presents its strategic plan.

The partnership has already led to redundancies in some departments, including the communications team.

Having done away with 19 positions last year, Ms Pope said the council would be in a better position to comment on possible redundancies once the plan had been completed.

The budget also assumes that Council Tax will be frozen for 2012/13 and raised by 2.5 per cent in subsequent years. The council will receive a £60,000 government grant as a result of the freeze.