Wirral Council budget consultation comes to an end

Wirral Council’s leader Cllr Janette Williamson today thanked all those who took part in the consultation over the authority’s budget for 2021-22.

The budget consultation has now closed and all comments and responses are being collated to help councillors in setting the budget for the coming year.

As part of the consultation thousands of people completed an online questionnaire at a special website portal, while more emailed comments and contacted their local councillors directly. Hundreds of others also took part in online Q&As with council leader Cllr Janette Williamson.

All responses will be used to draw up a full report reflecting the full range of responses to aid councillors in making decisions about the options being looked at for the council budget 2021-22, while additional time has been made available for those responding using the easy read questionnaires which can be submitted up to and including Friday 29 January.

Cllr Williamson said, “Thank you to everyone who took the time to tell us their views about the options being looked at to balance the budget for the coming year.  We are facing unprecedented budgetary cuts because the council is in such a perilous financial situation and it was heartening to see so many people taking part in the consultation.

“What I will say to everyone who has taken part is that your views matter to us, and it was vital that the people of Wirral had their say on the options we face before any final decisions are made.”

The next public stage in setting the council’s budget will be a special meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on 17 February. This committee, which is made up of senior councillors representing all parties on the authority, will make a formal recommendation on the budget options.

The council has an obligation in law to set a balanced and legal budget. This year the council faces an extremely difficult budget situation, in part due to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting communities and businesses in Wirral through this unprecedented time.

Despite extra Government funding this has not met all the additional costs and loss of income to the council. The pandemic has also meant that savings which had been planned for the last year could not be made which has contributed to making the current budget situation more difficult.

A budget gap of around £40 million was reported for financial year 2021/22 and the council is liaising with government on exceptional financial support that may be available to offset its pressures, largely stemming from COVID-19, which are estimated to be around £23.5 million.

However, this still leaves £16.5 million that the council will have to find to offset its general budget pressures in 2021/22.

Because of the budget gap the council must find ways to cut costs and where possible raise additional income, including considering options which do under any other circumstances we would not otherwise choose to consider to ensure the council remains sustainable into the future.

Options being looked at range across the authority, from changes to bins collections, car parking charges and maintenance of parks and open spaces amongst many others. Major reductions in council “back office” functions are also being proposed.

The final decision on the council budget is made at a meeting of the full council, which is Monday March 1. By law, the deadline for the council to set a budget for 2021/22 is March 11.

The meetings of the Policy and Resources Committee and full council, as well as other council meetings, can be viewed online via the council’s website.