Council Budget Statement

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.​