Lancashire County Council has launched a new online budget calculator where people can create their own council budget, to help them understand the challenges involved.
The calculator will help people think about the county council services that they believe are the most important and try to balance the budget. Adjusting the budget calculator changes the funding for a particular service which automatically changes the funding available for other areas.
Services listed on the calculator include cultural services (such as libraries and museums), roads and public transport, environment and Trading Standards, waste management, children and young people, adult social care and public protection; and the general costs of running the council.
To try the budget calculator, visit https://youchoose.yougov.com/Lancashire.
Senior managers and Cabinet members will be working together over the coming months to develop budget proposals to save £300m in the next four years. People using the budget calculator can leave comments and suggestions that will be taken into account as part of this process.
County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of the council and finance portfolio holder, said: “Setting the budget is extremely challenging as we have to balance competing demands and requirements in the face of a very difficult financial settlement. The budget calculator allows people to experience some of this for themselves.
“It’s important that the public knows the scale of the challenge we’re facing. We have to save £300m from 2014 to 2018, which is more than a third of the county council’s current budget. This is due to further cuts in funding from government, increasing costs and rising demand for services.
“By taking a longer term view, we believe that we can place a greater focus on ways of preventing cost increases, such as preventative measures and early intervention.”
Leader of the county council Jennifer Mein said: “The county council has already had to save £222m over the current three-year budget, but there is no doubt this next period will be even more challenging.
“As a new administration we are doing a considerable amount of work to understand the options available and develop a strategy for finding these savings.
“What is already clear, however, is that this won’t be a case of simply delivering the same services on a slightly smaller scale. We will have to do something more radical to enable the council to continue serving residents effectively, with an emphasis on those in most need.”
The budget calculator will be available until 9 December 2013.
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