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Residents have their say on council spending plans

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RESIDENTS, tenants, businesses and voluntary organisations in Tamworth have had their say on the council’s spending priorities as part of the 2018/19 budget setting process.

Earlier this year, Tamworth Borough Council gave people living and working in the borough a unique opportunity to share their views on the authority’s vision, priorities and how funds should be allocated.

Consultation on the key issues affecting the 2018/19 budget was carried out through the Tamworth Borough Council Citizens Panel, the council’s Tenant Consultative Group and three open online and paper surveys; a residents’ survey, a business survey and a voluntary sector survey.

The consultation ran from August 1 to September 12 and attracted a total of 271 responses, made up of 238 residents, 33 businesses and three community and voluntary organisations.

The results have now been collated in a Budget Consultation report which went before the council’s Cabinet on Thursday November 2 and will help inform the budgeting decisions for the year ahead.

Tamworth Borough Council’s vision is ‘One Tamworth, Perfectly Placed – open for business since the 7th century AD’, with a number of ambitions detailed under three strategic priorities.

Living a quality life in Tamworth: All priorities under this objective were given a high importance rating by at least half of the respondents. The most important was ‘people will feel safer and less fearful of crime and anti-social behaviour’ with 81% rating it as high. The second was ‘more people will live longer, healthier lives’ with 72%.

Growing strong together in Tamworth: The ambition with the highest importance rating in this area was that ‘Tamworth town centre will be regenerated and complement the outstanding retail and leisure offer’, with 74%, closely followed by the ambition that Tamworth will be a ‘great place to live’.

Delivering quality services in Tamworth: All ambitions under this strategic priority were seen as important by more than half of residents, with the most important being ‘access to all council services will be improved’ (80%). This was followed by ‘the council will set and maintain service standards that will be consistent, accessible and delivered by skilled staff’ (77%).

In terms of spending, the majority of respondents want the level of spending to remain the same across 11 of the 12 major cost areas, and 60% want to see more money spent on tackling anti-social behaviour.

Where charges are concerned, respondents most commonly supported increased public charges for ‘leisure and other activities’ (57%), ‘commercial property’ (46%) or ‘public spaces’ (40%), yet many commented they would be reluctant to increase charges due to the impact on vulnerable people, residents and businesses.

A total of 82% of respondents said they would most like to see a decrease in car parking charges, as well as ‘rents/rates’.

The top 10 identified priorities and improvements which would make Tamworth a better place to live, work and visit were:

  • Low level of crime
  • Good health services – with many comments centred around the size of the hospital and its unsuitability for the size of the town
  • Good shopping facilities – including restoration of the town centre and encouraging more businesses through reduced rates and reduced parking charges
  • Good job prospects
  • Clean streets – including suggestions to employ litter wardens and extra street cleaning
  • Affordable decent housing
  • Good education provision
  • Good parks and open spaces – residents showed appreciation for current facilities and suggested further improvements
  • Community events
  • Good sports and leisure facilities

When respondents were asked where they thought savings should be made, the most popular areas listed were voluntary sector commissioning, voluntary sector grants and events. The areas where they would least like to see savings made were parks and open spaces, street cleaning, refuse and recycling and tackling anti-social behaviour.

Where the level of Council Tax was concerned, 55% of residents preferred the smallest level of increase at 0.6% (based on a Band D property), 29% supported a 2% rise and 11% would support a 3% increase, which is similar to the average level of increase seen across West Midlands’ authorities.

Tamworth Borough Council Leader, Cllr Daniel Cook, said: “It is really important that the residents, businesses and voluntary organisations of this town play a part in determining the council’s spending plans.

“It is good to see that many people share our vision and priorities, while appreciating some of the difficulties involved in balancing those visions and priorities against the amount of money available.

“It was also interesting to note that the majority of respondents would like to see a reduction in car parking charges – as issue which has been a source of much local debate recently.

“This consultation exercise is an important part of the budget setting process and we are very grateful to all those who took the time to be involved and give us their views.”

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