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Saturday, March 28, 2015

More "difficult decisions ahead" for county

Denbighshire councillors are faced with more difficult decisions about the county’s budget, despite having already steered through “choppy waters”.

That’s the message from council chief executive Mohammed Mehmet writing in the first electronic edition of the County Voice magazine.

Mr Mehmet (pictured left) says the new `e-communication' is just one example of the many changes in Denbighshire arising from the budget setting process.

For this financial year, Denbighshire had to meet a savings target of £8.8m in order to set a legal budget.

The electronic version means the council has been able to save up to £20,000 annually in this one area alone.

The chief executive says: “As with every single cut we have made, we have had to weigh up the pros and cons and look for innovative ways to ensure we still have a suitable way to provide a service, in this case, how we highlight what is happening within the county council.

“Of course, we cannot assume everyone has internet access and so to mitigate this, print-outs will be available to read in our libraries and One Stop Shops.”

Dealing with budget cuts, Mr Mehmet says: “Councils across the UK have been absorbing cuts to budgets for the last five years.

“In Denbighshire, we have now set our budget for 2015/16 but it has certainly not been an easy process with some really difficult choices to be made by councillors.

“These have included cutting budgets in some important areas and also to popular services as well as having to introduce charges for others.

“We are at the stage where we seriously have to consider which non-statutory services we can continue and at any one time, our officers are working hard to ensure that, even when a budget is cut the service can continue to be delivered where at all possible.

“This is a very difficult task which requires expert knowledge in their field and can require us taking a very different, at times radical approach to the challenges we face.”

The chief executive says cuts have been made in order to protect more important priorities, such as:

* Setting the lowest Council Tax increase in North Wales and the second lowest increase in Wales at 2.75%.

* A £90m investment programme for building new schools and improving existing ones has also been protected.

* Protecting Social Services.

* All leisure, libraries and youth facilities remaining open next year.

* Keeping roads maintenance, public protection, building control and planning, and housing services at a level that is at least as good as the Welsh average standards.

Mr Mehmet adds: “I'm hopeful that, subject to no in-year changes from Welsh Government, we will be able to develop further proposals for minimising the impact of the cuts to our residents but I say this with the proviso that cuts are predicted to last for several years to come and, although we have steered our way through choppy waters so far - there is no doubt that our councillors will be faced with more difficult decisions ahead and work is already underway to this end.”

* To sign up for the electronic edition of County Voice, go to www.denbighshire.gov.uk/countyvoice

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