Great Yarmouth council consultation reveals what residents want and what council services could be cut
- Credit: James Bass
The results of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's Transformation consultation, which could help shape the borough for years to come, have been published.
Over the course of 12 weeks last year, residents, school children, college students and other stakeholders were asked to identify their hopes and aspirations for the region as well as picking out their priorities as the council looks to make savings.
On February 17, when councillors set the budget for 2015/16 they will take into account the consultation results. The answers people gave last year will help decide which frontline services are saved, cut back or reshaped.
The borough council's interim chief executive Gordon Mitchell said the survey shows 'that residents and others want a better borough.'
He said: 'There were 926 responses to the questionnaire, which indicates a successful survey according the independent market research agency which analysed the results. This valuable feedback is already helping councillors to make informed plans to shape the future of the council and borough.
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'There is general agreement on what needs to change and a desire for the borough council to work with partners to achieve this, while maintaining or improving key frontline services in the face of financial pressures.
'Fortunately, there is also remarkable openness to areas where higher service charges and new ways of working might be considered, alongside efficiencies and savings, in order to enable the continued support for services and extra investment required to achieve this ambition.'
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In the questionnaire, more than 80 per cent of respondents gave their views for what things should change, what should stay the same, what opportunities should be taken advantage of, and what challenges should be addressed.
Key overall themes include the need to regenerate areas, address concerns around Great Yarmouth town centre, promote and upgrade the tourism offer, promote the heritage and cultural offer, improve transport links, improve the physical environment, improve community safety and address environmental crime, and improve housing.
In a 50-page report presented to councillors on Monday, transformation programme manager Kate Watts said: 'The overriding message from the results are that residents and stakeholders want a better borough and one that they can feel proud of, with a good understanding of the difficult choices facing the council with a remarkable openness to areas where higher service charges and increasing income might be considered – alongside efficiencies and savings that the council has already made and will continue to do so.'
At the same time as trying to pull together a 'vision' for the borough, the Transformation consultation asked people to indicate how willing they would be for the council to make 11 possible 'savings and income generation changes' from selling off council buildings and closing public toilets to increasing cremation and burial fees and renting out spaces in local parks.
The results are being acted on already and will shape the budget for 2015/16.
After 85pc of respondents said they use the internet and 67pc said they would be happy to access council services online, GYBC is upgrading its website and contact centre. The changes will save £400,000 a year and, be noticeable from the end of March, according to interim chief executive Gordon Mitchell.
Furthermore, it is estimated that £100,000 can be saved annually by selling off council buildings which was one of the most popular changes identified through the consultation. An additional £374,000 is proposed to be saved in 2015/16 by reviewing and renegotiating external contracts.
The warning still stands, however, with the council adding that 'the scale of the ongoing funding challenge means councillors face some difficult yet unavoidable choices if they are to set sustainable budgets which do not rely upon reserves, while retaining the capacity to continue to freeze council tax and invest in services that mean most to people'.
Controversial changes include the shake-up and increase of car parking charges and the closure of some public toilet blocks.
The full report can be read online at www.great-yarmouth.gov.uk