Stirling Council is asking for residents help in setting next year’s budget through the Big Budget Conversation.
The local authority has launched its budget engagement process for 2021/22, with a stark message that services need to change next year to meet an £8 million funding gap.
However, transformation of how the Council delivers services will still continue in the coming years, with a further £30 million needing to be saved over the four years to 2024/25.
Due to this, residents are being asked to tell the council what matters most to them through an online survey on the new Engage Stirling platform, where residents will have until midnight on 24 January 2021 to get involved.
Responses from the survey will then be joined together with officer proposals and added to the responses from the recent Residents Survey and Locality Action Plans that have been developed throughout the year to provide a comprehensive package to inform Councillors’ budget plans in the coming months.
Commenting on the appeal to residents from the council, Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “It’s important we are clear about the reality facing the Council as a result of COVID-19.
“We face a substantial budget gap of at least £8million next year and options for closing it are more limited than normal, given services are already not operating as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Council has also incurred significant additional costs and loss of income in the current year because of the virus, and this is likely to continue into next year.
“Residents must be under no illusions – significant budget reduction measures will have to be considered to set a balanced budget for 2021/22 so it’s vital those decisions are informed by the public.”
As Covid-19 has restricted the Council’s ability to engage with residents in person. Cllr Brisley also made a special plea for residents to take part in this year’s budget engagement through the Council’s new digital engagement portal, Engage Stirling.
Brisley added: “Despite the significant challenge we face in balancing the books, we will also need to ensure that the investments we do make, which is worth around £224million each year, is focused on the Council’s agreed priorities and we need the public’s input on that.
“Help us understand what matters most to you by engaging in this Big Budget Conversation.”
Also commenting on the plea, Vice Convener, Cllr Alison Laurie, said: “We’ve been saying for a long time that COVID-19 would have an impact on the Council’s finances and services and we are now facing the harsh reality of responding to that.
“Our staff have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability to deliver essential services to the people of Stirling in the most challenges of circumstances.
“That challenge is now greater than ever before as a result of the financial pressures we are facing so we must continue to transform and adapt the way we deliver for the people of Stirling.
“It’s crucial they have their say in guiding how we do that.”
Image credit: Harry Williamson