The Government makes a habit of presenting councils with what has, in recent years, been a most unwelcome Christmas present – news of what savings we have to make in the coming year.
Most new years in recent times have got off on the footing of serious financial challenges.
We have seen 2015 out and usher 2016 in facing yet another annual challenge – how to save another large pile of cash while, at the same time, maintaining services.
Residents expect their refuse, recycling material and garden waste to be taken away, streets to be cleaned, grass to be cut, play areas to be maintained, swimming pools and gym to be made available, car parks provided, the markets to run, provision and maintenance of the crematorium and cemetery, litterers, flytippers and those engaged in anti-social behaviour dealt with, food providers assessed to be sure they meet health and hygiene standards, planning applications and building controls dealt with and obligations met under shared arrangements with partner organisations – phew!
The latest Government settlement means that our funding will reduce by a minimum of 32 per cent over the next four years. This could mean having £2 million less to pay for the services we currently provide. Future plans for further reductions in cash for councils from the Government and, in turn, for councils to keep money raised through business rates does not favour rural areas where agriculture, which is mainly business rates exempt, is the main industry. Farmers do contribute in a most important way for an area such as ours - they pay drainage rates to the drainage boards to ensure our low-lying areas remain dry and do not revert to fen or marsh.
We will have serious competition from within our own county and other counties for the businesses which pay rates – many of our competitors will have the benefits of established infrastructure and skill sets that we do not possess, along with better transport links.
Since austerity measures first began to bite we have met the challenge thanks to our far-reaching transformation programme. Our tactics remain the same – nothing is off limits and no stone will remain unturned in our quest to balance our budget and maintain frontline services.
I am not pretending it will be easy – each year, as we prune closer and closer to the bone, it becomes more difficult. I am always pleased to hear any sensible suggestions for saving money or raising money. But remember, for every saving there is a consequence for someone, somewhere within our borough.
Coun Peter Bedford is leader of Boston Borough Council.