Cllr Richard Grosvenor is the Leader of East Staffordshire Borough Council.
At East Staffordshire Borough Council our level of council tax has not been increased in the last nine years – and that includes twice when we have actually reduced it.
Our further commitment to our electorate has been that we will freeze it for the life of this administration up to 2019, so that residents have certainty in personal budgeting and members and officers have the clarity that our budget proposals must account for this freeze. It focusses the direction. We have created a culture where we look at savings on a daily basis and question items of spend from a perspective of “how can we achieve this at the lowest cost?”. If we want to generate growth we do that through an invest to save approach and we share internal savings so that we can guarantee that savings materialize.
We have done this with considerable investment in our “leisure offering” – spending around £9 million on our three leisure centres which not only improve the offer to our residents but also generate savings ; for example in energy efficiency, which have helped our revenue budget.
Specific savings are also made in the “back office” before we look at front line services and that approach has enabled us to protect priority front line services whilst maintaining a low tax approach. An example of these savings is an accommodation move which not only saved against our revenue budget, but also brought better efficiencies to our teams.
For a while our council has had a strategy to be a smaller organisation and so this has enabled us to continually refresh and restructure our management teams as we restructure our workforce, going from 12 senior managers to just two – and this has not impacted front line services. On that basis not only have we been able to freeze our council tax but we have also introduced a free car parking scheme to our residents as well.