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Go on, you balance our budget invite to Peterborough residents

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An interactive tool that puts residents in the driving seat when it comes to balancing the council’s budget has been launched today (Tuesday 19 September).

The budget simulator – first used by the city council last year – gives residents the opportunity to learn more about the breadth of services the council provides, and to have their say on which services matter most to them in the run-up to the authority setting its budget for the coming year.

People can access the budget simulator at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget-simulator

At a Cabinet meeting on Monday, members heard from finance officers that based on forecasting, the predicted budget gap in the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for the next financial year is now £5.1million.

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In February the council was predicting a much smaller budget gap of £0.5m in 2024/25, however inflation and high demand for services such as adult social care and children’s social care have increased the budget pressure.

In children’s social care alone, the council is spending an additional £3.5m on care for young people with very complex needs.

The simulator will set residents the challenge of deciding where the council should save or invest to be able to balance its budget.

The responses will then be considered by the council in the development of its MTFS which will set out how the council will deliver a balanced budget in 2024/25.

Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald, leader of the council, said: “We’ve come a long way in the past year and moved closer to securing the council’s finances long-term.

“Put simply, this means being able to provide the services that our residents need with the money we have available.

“We’ve also seen the city continue to prosper with our university completing its first full academic year, funding agreed to transform our railway station quarter and regeneration of other key sites progressing.

“As I have said many times before, we are a city of opportunity with a very bright future.

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“I am really proud of our progress and it’s one of the reasons we were shortlisted in the category of Most Improved Council at this year’s Local Government Chronicle awards.

“In the coming years we have a budget gap to fill and once again we are asking the people of Peterborough for their suggestions of where they think we should be focussing our spending and where we should make savings.

“This will help us understand what is important to our residents when we make our budget proposals later this year.”

For each council service included in the simulator there is a description explaining what it provides and looks to achieve. In addition, for each reduction or increase in spend there is an option to read about, or watch a video, about the consequences.

The simulator also asks participants if they would be willing to pay above the 4.99% council tax increase that was agreed by members when the three-year Medium Term Financial Strategy was signed off in February. This included a 2% adult social care precept, providing ringfenced funding to provide adult social care services.

Government limits mean that councils cannot increase council tax above 5%, unless a referendum is held, and residents vote in favour of doing so. The simulator will give participants the option of increasing council tax above 5%.

Councillor Andy Coles, Cabinet Member for Legal, Finance and Corporate Services, said: “It remains a very challenging time for local authorities, and we are not alone in the situation that we face.

“We are actually in a better position than many other councils. Some are facing budget gaps running into many tens of millions and others, such as Birmingham City Council, are issuing section 114 notices, effectively saying they can no longer balance their budget and limiting all but essential spending.

“What sets us apart in Peterborough is that we have a firm grip on our finances, and we have been planning for this latest challenge. We know we must find a way to meet the city’s needs without additional budget and that is why our focus is on how we transform services to achieve that aim.

“So please, take the time to think carefully about the challenge we are setting you and give us an idea of how you would tackle balancing our budget.”

The budget simulator will be live until the end of Tuesday 31 October 2023. Cabinet members will receive a report detailing themes and comments arising from the budget simulator at a meeting in November.

People can access the budget simulator at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget-simulator

 

 

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