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Budget cuts: Council faces ‘a huge challenge’

Milton Keynes Council’s cabinet has asked officers to begin work on budget proposals that will go to consultation later this year.

Businesses and residents will have the opportunity to have their say on the plans, which will be confirmed after the government announces how much central funding the council will receive.

The council has already saved £89 million since 2011/12 from its controllable budget, which now stands at around £200 million.

This has been through a combination of measures including more efficient working practices and taking some difficult decisions including cutting around 10% of its jobs – 259 people in that time period.

But council leader Cllr Pete Marland has warned that the new wave of savings will be much harder to find.

He said: “Doing what we have always done is no longer an option. We are facing some tough choices. 

“We want to make sure Milton Keynes remains a great place to live, work and visit but inevitably some ‘nice to do’ services will need to stop and we will be employing fewer people while at the same time looking how to generate income to help support vital services.

The council has changed how services are delivered with partners, he added, and has been ‘investing to save’ such as spending £50 million up front on resurfacing roads to make them more robust, which helps to reduce costly pothole repairs in the medium term.

The council is also looking at income generation to fill gaps in income provision. 

But it still faces increased demand for its services and reduced funding from Westminster. By 2026, almost 25% of Milton Keynes’ population will be aged over 60 and the borough has experienced both a ‘baby boom’ and massive growth in the number of older people in recent years, much more than the national average. 

This has put pressure on the most expensive services to deliver such as schools, social care, child protection, and the provision of support for people with disabilities.

Cllr Marland said: “Council officers are working on plans for Cabinet right now and the focus is on making services sustainable, better, and different. But we will not make any decisions without listening to our citizens, businesses and partners first.”

The council expects to put its proposals out to consultation in December following the Autumn Statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne later this month and confirmation of the central funding the council will receive. 

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