Have your say on Breckland Council’s future in new consultation

Thousands of Breckland residents will have the chance to shape the future of the district council through a new consultation.

The plan for residents to suggest how and where the local authority spends their money, as well as what services it provides, came about after a workshop with more than 30 councillors last month.

Leader of Breckland Council, William Nunn, said the authority needed to save �3.5m from its budget over the next five years.

He said: 'It is not going to get better. The government isn't going to say 'we have found some more money, have it all back'.

'We have a problem in society with supply. Everybody expects everyone in the public sector to continually give them something. We are trying to understand what we can give them and what they need. We need to protect the most needy in society.'

From the two workshops, it emerged that the most popular functions of Breckland Council were to provide a basic level of services, pay for anything above a basic service and maintain its strategic role.

In September and October, public meetings will be held in Watton, Swaffham, Thetford, Dereham and Attleborough to discuss which services are valued the most and how the council should deliver them in the future. These range from bin collections and car parking to business rates.

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Ian Sherwood, ward councillor for Swaffham, said: 'The public needs to understand what the costs are. There are certain things that the council should provide and must provide.

'We have the scope to come out with an answer relating to the communities here.'

But he added there were services that the council provided that even its members were unaware of.

Mr Nunn said: 'Some of [the consultation] will be making people aware of what we do and allowing them to discuss whether we still do it or not. We are trying to push people back to thinking of the council as a blank sheet of paper and we are saying if we did nothing, what would you like us to do.'

He added that the funding gap will only get bigger if the council did not take action now.

Residents can send in suggestions to their ward councillors about what they think the authority should and should not be doing to their ward councillors before the public meetings.

The outcome from those debates will be used to influence the district council's budget for next year, set in November and residents' suggestions can be made online or in writing.

Mr Nunn said the changes could take from a few weeks to years to put in place.

Mr Sherwood added: 'It is all about choice for councillors and the public. If we get this right and the public engage with the council, this could be a model for other councils in the country.'

-Plans to create a shared management between Breckland, South Holland and Great Yarmouth councils have been halted.

The merger was agreed in principle at a meeting on March 8 and was due to be passed by the Tories, who ruled Great Yarmouth Council before last week's election.

The Labour party took overall control of the council and leader Trevor Wainwright said after the win he would keep his promise to call a halt to the shared management plan.

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