Residents are being asked to have their say on plans to cut millions from North Yorkshire Council’s budgets.
A consultation is being launched to get the public’s views and pinpoint the key priorities for the authority’s budget for the next financial year.
The council says it is facing major financial challenges.
Council chiefs say millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money is expected to be saved in the first year of North Yorkshire Council as services are brought together to realise the benefits of the biggest overhaul of local democracy in nearly 50 years.
However, the benefits which have been brought about by merging eight councils into one authority are being tempered by the major financial challenges ahead and the ongoing global economic uncertainty.
Residents are now being encouraged to have their say on the council’s priorities by taking part in the Let’s Talk Money survey. Feedback received will inform decisions on the 2024/25 budget and the Council Plan covering 2024 to 2028.
North Yorkshire Council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “Like all councils, and many residents and businesses, we face major financial challenges due to the cost of living crisis, high rates of inflation and a huge demand for critical services, such as support for children and young people with special educational needs and adult social care.
“However, despite the tough financial climate we are ambitious for our residents and the thousands of businesses that call North Yorkshire home.
“There’s no doubt we face huge challenges, but if we all work together we can build a stronger North Yorkshire. We are inviting you to help us by having your say in our survey about how we should spend the money we have available.”
In its first months, the council has already developed a strong economic strategy to drive clean growth and improve opportunities for employment and skills.
With City of York Council, it has secured a devolution deal with the Government, which, subject to final approval by Parliament, will create a York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority to drive regeneration and investment.
The deputy leader and executive member for finance and resources, Cllr Gareth Dadd, said: “We are making sure the Government understands what we need through our devolution deal and establishing a mayoral-led combined authority. We will not rest in our efforts to provide the best opportunities possible for this county.
“By bringing together the eight former county, borough and district councils to form North Yorkshire Council, we have put ourselves in a better position to face the future. In fact, by April next year we predict we will have saved £5 million a year just by coming together, and we are working on many more opportunities.”
A deficit in the council’s budget which is predicted to be £25 million for this financial year is being covered through the one-off use of reserves, after some additional savings have also been made. In the longer term, the financial gap is expected to widen and will need to be met by additional savings.
A masterplan is now being pulled together to maximise millions of pounds in savings across North Yorkshire Council to help counter the unprecedented financial challenges. The plan to introduce the savings needs to be set out by February next year to ensure that the new authority does not have to continue to rely on cash reserves to balance its books and, at the same time, provide financial support to the most vulnerable in society.
During the second year of the new council’s operation, it is estimated that there will be a further shortfall of £30 million, with another annual deficit of £45 million predicted in the third year. Unless savings can be found, a total of £105 million will be needed to be used from the council’s reserves over the next three years.
The shortfall in the council’s budget has been caused by a series of factors, such as the high rate of inflation, issues surrounding supply chains and rising staffing costs as well as the aftershock of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the opportunity to streamline the way in which key services ranging from waste and recycling to education, highways and planning are delivered to businesses and residents in North Yorkshire is seen as essential to helping to tackle the growing demands on the new council’s finances.
By joining up services and maximising spending power, North Yorkshire Council is set to recoup between £30 million and £70 million, which will become annual savings. The scale of the new council’s operations will see it have an overall spend of about £1.2 billion, including £343 million on schools.
The council’s priorities are set out in its Council Plan, which can be read at www.northyorks.gov.uk/councilplan
The Let’s Talk Money survey can be completed at www.northyorks.gov.uk/LetsTalkNY online.
Paper copies are available from the county’s libraries, leisure centres and main local offices. Paper copies and copies in accessible formats can also be requested by emailing LetsTalk@northyorks.gov.uk, calling 0300 1312131 or writing to Let’s Talk, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AD.
The survey will close on Monday, December 18.
Feedback and the results of the consultation will be included in the budget report that will go to the council’s executive on January 23, 2024, and to the full council on February 21, 2024, for a final decision.