In response to the Councils announcement yesterday regarding the proposed budget for the authority, I thought it useful that I detail what that might mean for our local area.
Just like many local people in the community I'm genuinely shocked by the scale and potential impacts of these proposed cuts, particularly in relation to Darlington's heritage and culture, ultimately these decisions will be taken, however we all have a responsibility to have our voices heard, whether you're a local community group, business owner or concerned resident, it's really important that our views are feedback.
It's clear that our town will look and feel very differently in the coming years.
In addition to the Council run services being reduced, it's also important to understand the impact that those proposals will have on local groups working in our area, particularly Firthmoor & District Community Association, the charity that I chair.
I've always said that it's really important to acknowledge that our charity depends largely on income we generate from own business performance; which means when your partners and service users see a reduction in their funding, that inevitable will have an impact on us.
Over the last few years we have undertaken several operational reviews at Firthmoor Community Centre, including reviews of our structure, services and finance, we've also implemented a sound financial planning process, streamlined our operating model and we've also been able to make much needed and significant investments in the building. The model we have now is as efficient as possible and any changes to that could potentially impact our service delivery.
Our main causes for concern are the potential reductions in children's centre services being delivered from Firthmoor Community Centre and the proposed removal of our discretionary rate relief, creating income uncertainty of around £0.21k, those combined with the challenges involved with the introduction of the National Living Wage present us with a significant financial challenge.
For example, by 2020 Firthmoor & District Community Association will need an additional 0.70k annually to support employee costs alone, and that's just to continue doing what we're doing.
I passionately believe that it's important that local people are still able to continue to access these services locally and I will be working with the council and other partners to ensure that local people continue to have access to those services right where they need them most.
On a more winder point, local authorities are not always best placed to deliver some of the kinds of services that are being reduced, and some of those services could ultimately be transferred to voluntary groups, who are sometimes better placed to deliver those services.
I continue to be committed to delivering a first class service for our community, and I'll do all I can to support local people.