Fenland Council leader says its 'vital' people have their say as he warns of cuts to frontline services

PUBLISHED: 13:00 26 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:29 26 August 2015

John Clark. March East.(Con)

John Clark. March East.(Con)

Archant

Cuts to frontline services are coming across Fenland and people can have their say on where the axe falls in a ground-breaking initiative by the district council.

Cuts to frontline services are coming across Fenland and people can have their say on where the axe falls in a ground-breaking initiative by the district council.

For the first time every one of Fenland’s 44,000 households is being given the chance to choose where the £1.8m savings, the council says it needs to make over the next three years, are made.

At a special briefing today (Wednesday) council leader John Clark said Fenland District Council is taking the unprecedented step of consulting the public because, with five years of cuts already totalling £8 million, the “decisions are getting harder and harder”.

He said: “The first £8 million worth of cuts have been managed extremely well by our officers who have had to make some huge decisions affecting people’s lives, including by losing their jobs.

“This time round it is really ratcheting up, it is just getting tougher as they will now start to affect frontline services which will affect everyone.

“Councillors are elected to represent people and make decisions, and we have been happy to do that in the past, but now it is time to ask the people what they want because the decisions will affect our frontline services.”

The letter and survey will go out by post on or around September 12 and residents will have a month to respond.

In the past people have been asked to prioritise the services they want to see protected, this time it is different.

Everyone is being asked to choose where the cuts fall. The survey offers a choice of 19 options and are people must choose a minimum of six.

The council, which could be the first in the country to consult on such a wide scale over cuts, realistically expects around 10 per cent of people to reply.

“A response of 10 per cent is considered good, so anything over that would be a really good,” said Councillor Chris Seaton, the council’s portfolio holder for finance.

Cllr Clark was quick to point out the letter is just the first round of consultation. The responses will be analysed and used to create a more detailed consultation ‘bespoke’ to each of the services chosen for cuts.

That will also be sent out to all those who responded in to the first survey, but this time the council is looking to send it electronically where possible so it is vital people with emails provide that information.

Those who do not have access to email will still be able to have a say as the papers will be available at libraries and the council’s One Stop shops.

“This is not about politics, it is not Conservatives versus UKIP or Labour, the opposition will be involved from the outset. This is far more than politics, a far bigger question than that, which is why we are urging as many people as possible take the time to complete and return the survey,” said Cllr Clark.

“We have no choice, central government is making decisions and are cutting funding and that is being past down the line. We have to deal with it and we think this is the fairest way of ensuring we make the cuts in the right places,” he added.

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