Transcript of online budget consultation

5:31
Cllr Pervez is here now. We are ready to take your questions.
5:33
Comment From James Perch

Hello cllr. I asked a question about why you and the chief executive have not taken a pay cut to show we are all in this together during the budget cuts?

5:34
SoTcitycouncil:

Cllr Pervez is now responding to your questions, James.

5:37
Comment From Mohammed Pervez

It is not for me to set my members allowance, this is determined by the independent remuneration panel. Members voted earlier this year to freeze their allowance and the Independent Remuneration Panel are due to start their review shortly. We will wait to see what their recommendations are.

5:38
Mohammed Pervez:

With respect to the CEO, his salary is determined by external market forces. We want the best officers for our City and therefore have to be competitive in our salaries.

5:40
Comment From ian_norris

Do any past consultants still work in the Press Department

5:42
Mohammed Pervez:

Within the press team there are currently no consultants working there.

5:43
Comment From David Barker

Evening Cllr, as Governor of Stoke Minster Primary School, do you feel that the development of the Victoria Ground is essential for the community’s enhancement and future well-being?

5:44
SoTcitycouncil:

We are going to try to answer as many questions from as many different people as possible, so please bear with us if your question doesn’t show up immediately.

5:45
Mohammed Pervez:

The future of the Victoria Ground is very important to us and its future is currently under review. Clearly it would be in our interest to ensure that the site is developed to reflect our Mandate for change.

5:46
Comment From Margaret Lowe

Hello Cllr. Why do you want to save £24m, when you only need to save £17m? I have heard that you want to ‘invest’ the rest. However, increasing council tax by 3.5% is going to put more people in poverty as we have had rises in gas, electricity and probably water rates. My pay and many others has not risen in 2 years. Where do you think we are going to get the extra money from? Why not just be satisfied with the £17m and not raise the council tax?

5:48
Comment From James Perch

How can you justify your ‘investments’ when the cuts you are making to help fund them are resulting in so many job cuts and things like care facilities being closed?

5:48
SoTcitycouncil:

James and Margaret, Cllr Pervez is answering both your questions now.

5:49
Mohammed Pervez:

The save to invest initiative is crucial if we are going to stimulate the local economy and deliver on the Mandate for Change. Governement cuts make it impossible to sustain public sector jobs. The future lies in ensuring that the right kind of conditions are created within our city to enable the private sector to invest here.

5:52
Mohammed Pervez:

With respect to care facilities being closed, there will be alternative provision. Adult social care is a statutory duty. I would also like to refer you to my previous response on this matter.

5:52
Comment From Darren

Why has the council withheld information about Waterworld? What is it hiding by withholding information?

5:53
Mohammed Pervez:

I am not able to answer this for legal reasons.

5:53
Comment From Guest

Why is money in reserve funds not used to mitigate the harshness of the cuts?

5:57
Mohammed Pervez:

Our none-earmarked reserves are already at the lower end of what might be expected for a local authority of our size. We have used some of the earmarked reserves to pay for redundancy costs and are guided by our section 151 officer on the use of the reserves.

5:59
Comment From James Perch

Is it true what parents are being told that needle exchanges could be shared with children’ centres?

6:01
Mohammed Pervez:

The answer is NO. However, if you do have further concerns please write to budget2012@stoke.gov.uk.

6:02
Comment From ClareWhite

Hello Cllr Pervez – three questions if you don’t feel they’ve already been covered: (1) Have you considered not cutting – or even investing more in – services that are needed by the most vulnerable people in the city (eg children, older people, people with disabilities)? (2) What assessment have you made on the impact of cuts on our vulnerable groups, and (3) did you review the impact of last year’s cuts before making this year’s proposals?

6:07
Twitter
SoTCityCouncil:

If you want to take part in our webchat with the council leader, go to http://www.stoke.gov.uk/webchat on now. [via Twitter]

6:07
Twitter
SoTCityCouncil:

We are trying to give as many different people as possible a chance to ask questions. [via Twitter]

6:09
Mohammed Pervez:

We need to find extra cash to stand still. Not cutting is not an option, the money has to come from somewhere. However, we are trying to protect the most vulnerable as far as we can. In our save to invest initiative there are a number of investments detailed under the various pillars of Mandate for change which can be found on the councils website. In particular I would urge you to look at the pillar to promote independence and healthy lives. Equality Impact assessments have been carried out where deemed appropriate at this stage and these will be kept under constant review. In deciding on a particular saving option we do consider the current level of resources and evaluate the impact of making any further cuts.

6:10
SoTcitycouncil:

We’ve had a question submitted from Kieran Clarke via e-mail as follows: The City Council is proposing a council tax increase of 3.5%, thereby refusing a government subsidy of 2.5%, or £2m in real money.

Why should council tax payers have to pay an extra 3.5% this year for what is, in effect, an increase in Council revenue of only £800k?

If the government grant is for one year only then we will have to pay the extra next year anyway, so why should we pay it a year earlier?

The council is investing £5m for the future, so why not re-phase this expenditure so that only £4.2m is actually spent in 2012/13.

In your introduction you say you are redesigning the council for growth. This is bound to result in efficiencies which can be used to generate the investment needed without hitting the council tax payers.

6:15
Mohammed Pervez:

Good to hear from you Kieran. I am sure as a former cabinet member for Finance, you will understand that any temporary Governement incentives are not locked in the council tax base budget. This means that in the medium -long run we will loose out if we did not put the council tax up this year. It is not safe to assume that we will pay the extra next year anyway because a government cap may apply.

6:15
Comment From ian_norris

In November 2011, the number of assistant directors was reduced from 19 to 15 saving £424,000, but the City Council now propose to take on another assistant director costing £106,000. Why the Sudden change to number of Assitant Directors required? What safeguard are in place to stop one the the recent redundant assistant directors being taken back on?”

6:20
Mohammed Pervez:

As far as I know the job has not been evaluated yet so I do not know where the £106k comes from. The post is considered to be essential to further develop new low carbon and commercial enterprise opportunities in the City.

6:22
Comment From James

Why oh why didn’t you do free parking in Hanley before Christmas like everywhere else and surely this would be part of mandate for change?

6:25
Comment From David Barker

But does your mandate for change include apark4Stoke, the only town without one?

6:25
Mohammed Pervez:

Parking charges are a source of revenue. This income has been in decline over recent months. To allow free parking would have meant even greater financial burden on the council and that money would have had to be found from somewhere else e.g. further savings.

6:27
Mohammed Pervez:

Plans for a play area on the victoria ground are currently being considered in the context of the development opportunities that may exist for this site. Overall as a city we are more than adequately provided with plenty of parks and green space.

6:28
Comment From John

Why are you cutting disabled people’s direct payments again the council attack the most vunteable I’m society! Disgusting

6:30
Mohammed Pervez:

For clarity can you please provide me with the specific saving reference that you are referring to.

6:31
Comment From ian_norris

What does the £200,000 to promote independence and healthy lives for people with SEN mean, is that to encourage public Transport over Taxis?

6:35
Mohammed Pervez:

It is recognised that people with SEN want to live as independently as possible. To ensure that this happens we are investing to provide help and support to enable perople with SEN to become travel independent. However, this does not mean that everyone will be able to gain this travel indpendence. It will be on a case by case basis depending on their specific needs. Public transport will be used if appropriate.

6:36
Comment From Rockape

Can ask why you arent doing more as a council to collect defaulted council tax payments using moden collection ways. The collection recovery profile of this council is shocking, thus impoving this woudl give you more slippage in your budget?

6:38
Mohammed Pervez:

This is a really challenging area for us and we are committed to improving our collection rate. We want to work with people who can’t pay for genuine reasons to put payment plans in place but at the same time pursue those who refuse to pay.

6:40
Comment From Sam__Alexander

Proposal 1-cr17 review of public open space maintenance states open space will be “left to naturalise or create flower meadows” Do you know which public open spaces will be left to go wild and cold this have a negative impact on the appearance of Stoke-on-Trent?

6:42
SoTcitycouncil:

Hi John, regarding your question about direct payment to disabled people, if you could send us more information about where in the budget it says these are being cut, we will come back to you.

6:42
Mohammed Pervez:

I do not have this information to hand. We will come back to you with a more detailed answer on this.

6:44
Comment From Guest

Why doesn’t the council make a small charge of 25p per jouney instead of limiting use of oap bus passes.

6:45
SoTcitycouncil:

We will only have time to take three more questions after the current question, so please submit them now.

6:47
Comment From James

I’ve put in loads of questions already and you’ve ignored them so why ask for 3 more?

6:48
Mohammed Pervez:

This saving proposal will bring us in line with many other local authorities. The charge of 25p per journey is something I will get our officers to evaluate, thank you.

6:48
SoTcitycouncil:

Hi James, Cllr Pervez has given responses to your question about the Hanley Christmas parking above, and the needle exchange.

6:49
Comment From Sam__Alexander

Have the consultation Roadshows around Stoke been successful?

6:52
Mohammed Pervez:

A number of people have spoken to us on the Budget Proposals at the Roadshows and we will continue to hold these across the City even after Christmas. It is important that we provide our residents with an opportunity to give us their views. The roadshows are in addition to the consultations that we are doing with our business communities, our staff, our partners and elected members.

6:53
Comment From Andy

Has anyone evaluated whether the planned ‘save to invest’ initiative will have an impact? Is it really going to be cost effective? Is the success of the initiative going to be monitored?

6:57
Mohammed Pervez:

Our Overview and Scrutiny committees have considered the proposals and this is the purpose of this consultation exercise. We are also engaging with our business communities to take their view on board. We are currently living in tough financial climate where public sector jobs are being lost and therefore need to do all we can to promote private sector growth. We are also working in partnership with the Local Enterprise Partnership for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

6:58
Comment From James Perch

What is your response to the headteachers who have signed a petitions saying your cuts to childrens services are too deep?

6:59
SoTcitycouncil:

This is the last question we will have time to answer this evening.

7:00
SoTcitycouncil:

Hi John, Thanks for your messages regarding the direct payments to disabled people. We believe these come from central Government via the city council, but would like to hear more so we can be sure. Please can you e-mail budget2012@stoke.gov.uk Thanks

7:01
Mohammed Pervez:

We will obviously take this into consideration. This is the whole point of doing this consultation and we are grateful for any feedback on the proposals. Once we have collated all the responses the council will make a decision on the overall budget. I would like to encourage everyone to continue to send us their views.

7:02
Mohammed Pervez:

I would like to thank everyone for taking part in this web chat on the Budget proposals.

7:02
SoTcitycouncil:

Thank you very much for your time this evening. The webchat will be available to view on our website and we will look at the questions we have been unable to answer.


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