Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Try your hand at setting the Lancashire County Council budget

In an effort to shed light on the problems it faces from reduced government funding, Lancashire County Council has launched a new online budget calculator where people can create their own council budget, to help them understand the challenges involved.

The Council hopes the calculator will help people think about the county council services that they believe are the most important and try to balance the budget. Adjusting the budget calculator changes the funding for a particular service which automatically changes the funding available for other areas.

Services listed on the calculator include cultural services (such as libraries and museums), roads and public transport, environment and Trading Standards, waste management, children and young people, adult social care and public protection; and the general costs of running the council.

Just like Lancaster City Council, which also faces further funding cuts, senior managers and Cabinet members will be working together over the coming months to develop budget proposals to save £300m in the next four years. People using the budget calculator can leave comments and suggestions that will be taken into account as part of this process.

Having tried it, it's clear no area will be left unaffected if the Council is to achieve the 0% council tax rise Government has demanded of them, despite inflation rises that impact on costs.

However, the calculator doesn't allow for users to simply decide to cut a major infrastructure project (such as the controversial M6 link) as this money is not really in the Council's pocket, even though they will be expected to pay for any cost overrruns.

Neither does the calculator appear to allow for much room in terms of raising revenues, or take into account, for example, that increasing bus services might increase revenues in that area.

County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of the council and finance portfolio holder, said: "Setting the budget is extremely challenging as we have to balance competing demands and requirements in the face of a very difficult financial settlement. The budget calculator allows people to experience some of this for themselves.

"It's important that the public knows the scale of the challenge we're facing. We have to save £300m from 2014 to 2018, which is more than a third of the county council's current budget. This is due to further cuts in! funding from government, increasing costs and rising demand for services.

"By taking a longer term view, we believe that we can place a greater focus on ways of preventing cost increases, such as preventative measures and early intervention."

Leader of the county council Jennifer Mein said: "The county council has already had to save £222m over the current three-year budget, but there is no doubt this next period will be even more challenging.

"As a new administration we are doing a considerable amount of work to understand the options available and develop a strategy for finding these savings.

"What is already clear, however, is that this won't be a case of simply delivering the same services on a slightly smaller scale. We will have to do something more radical to enable the council to continue serving residents effectively, with an emphasis on those in most need."

The budget calculator will be available until 9th December 2013.

• To try the budget calculator, visit

No comments: