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Do not pass go, cut £100m - how would you set council budget?
A COUNCIL facing another £100m of savings is inviting voters to play a Monopoly-style “game” to decide how they would share out the pain of the cuts.
Durham County Council chiefs have designed a 32-place board showing how much each of their services costs and are asking residents to tackle the challenge they face – cutting the budget by a quarter by 2017.
At events between Saturday (October 19) and December 7, participants will deploy red and green stickers to indicate cuts of above or below 25 per cent, respectively, for each service, or no sticker to go for 25 per cent exactly.
Council leader Simon Henig said the exercise would put people in councillors’ shoes, weighing up priorities rather than considering each cut in isolation.
He denied the exercise, which he said was not a game, trivialised the process, saying the public had a right to say where their money should be spent.
“We have got to save this money because £100m has been cut off our grants. So the question is: where are we going to find it?”
The Labour chief said he could not commit to implementing all the public’s recommendations as it was likely “everything will have to be looked at”, but he added: “It will strongly influence the views of councillors.
“We need to be mindful of what our residents say in terms of their priorities.”
The exercise will be available at Area Action Partnership (AAP) meetings. It has already been trialled at four run by Mid Durham AAP.
Residents are also asked to say whether they want council tax to increase by more or less than two per cent.
The council has already cut £110m from its spending and will cut about another £10m by the end of the current financial year, leaving another £100m to be saved by 2017, from a remaining budget of £400m. The authority last undertook such a major budget consultation exercise in 2010, when voters’ top priorities were winter maintenance, adult social care and looked-after children.
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