The Chancellor delivered his Autumn Statement last week and the economic forecasts look less than rosy, with the country facing more financial uncertainty and austerity for a while to come.
Against this backdrop, local authorities continue to struggle with hugely reduced central government funding and all face very difficult decisions each year when it comes to their own Budget planning.
At East Riding of Yorkshire Council, despite these massive funding reductions, we have been able to stave off some of the more major cuts other authorities have been forced to introduce.
This has been down to our foresightedness at the start of the economic downturn and our focus on successful forward planning and strong financial management.
This can only carry you so far, however, and it is inevitable in this economic climate that there will be tough decisions – and budget savings – to make.
An example of this has been the review of the library service which has taken nearly two years of research and consultation with library users and other residents. You often hear people say that public consultations by organisations just pay lip service to the opinions expressed.
Well I’m pleased to say that not only did East Riding of Yorkshire Council ask the public what they wanted but we listened and acted accordingly, changing our proposals accordingly.
Of course savings have to be made – the council has at least £60million of annual savings to make by 2020, on top of the £118million it has made since 2010 – and the library and multi-service centres review will lead to savings of £1.2million a year.
However, we are proud of our excellent track record with library and customer services.
We wanted to ensure they continue to thrive in East Yorkshire and we feel we will achieve that with the plan that you, the public, have helped us come up with.
If you look around the country there have been hundreds of library closures but, as a result of this review, not a single library or multi-service centre will be closed in the East Riding and we will continue to provide a mobile library service.
This has involved a huge amount of work: assessing the numbers of people using branch and mobile libraries; collating and analysing the 12,000-plus responses we received in the two stages of public consultation; and producing a plan to ensure a vibrant future for libraries and customer services.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to take part in the consultation.
We said all along we would listen to what you had to say – and we did – and it’s been very rewarding to receive the thanks of people who appreciate the way the council has acted, despite the financial pressures, to preserve services which are so highly valued by residents.