Merton Council’s cabinet this week agreed the draft budget for 2009-2010 despite facing increasingly tough financial challenges. The Council has pursued a further efficiency drive and proposes making a number of savings to deliver this balanced budget.
The final budget will not be agreed until March next year, but in order to balance the books the council has at this stage proposed £6.7 million worth of savings that need to be made.
These savings come at a difficult time for Merton Council and its residents. The credit crunch has brought more pressure on family finances and councils around the country, including Merton, are seeing an increased demand for services such as housing support but also a drop in the money they can collect and therefore spend. Additional pressures to services as well as general cost increases and decreasing funding from the government have left gaps in the budget. The ‘local government settlement’ funding helps pay for essential services such as social care, children’s services and waste collection and is crucial in enabling the council to deliver services to residents.
Closing the gap in the budget will be achieved by a number of routes including reducing the number of job posts and positions in the council, continuing to drive through efficiency savings and introducing an increase in fees and charges in areas such as pest control, public hall hire and parking.
Cabinet have also asked officers to review the overall impact of the economic crisis on Merton, in terms of possible additional demands on the council’s services, in order to come to a responsible and informed view on its proposed budget in the New Year. As with the majority of local councils Merton is too anticipating it will have to increase its council tax rate, but it is proposing to take a view on this once it has a clearer picture of the likely demand on essential services resulting from the credit crunch.
Merton Council deputy leader and cabinet member for corporate resources Councillor Samantha George said:
“A great deal of work has gone into presenting a balanced budget at this stage but there is more to be done. Merton has received one of the lowest grants from central government in London and with the economy slowing down, demand for council services has increased and so have the council’s costs, so it is not an easy process.
“The council is working hard to make further savings so the level of council tax can be kept down. It is determined to do what it needs to put its residents needs first during the downturn and offer them the best value for money.”