All options open to council cuts - WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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Lib Dem criticise £20,000 cost of sending letter to every household

LETTERS are this week set to drop through the doors of 200,000 Sheffield households from council leader Julie Dore asking residents for their views on how the authority should save up to £57 million over the 2012/12 financial year.

Sheffield Council’s Labour administration has launched the consultation exercise as it works on its proposed budget.

The four-sided leaflet asks people what services they think the council should protect and where the axe should fall.

The only aspects of the council’s work which are protected from savings are statutory duties such as child protection work and areas of social services.

Opposition Lib Dems have criticised the cost of the exercise, with the bill for sending out the letters set to be around £20,000.

But Coun Dore said: “We’re facing the toughest times in probably a generation. Sheffielders are known for their pragmatic approach to dealing with difficult problems. It is that honest, no nonsense thinking that makes Sheffield a great place and that is why I have written to local people to ask for their ideas and outline what we are facing financially.

“Looking out for each other and that sense of community and neighbourliness is something special about the city and I would want to tap into that spirit and ask Sheffielders to pull together with us.”

The council says the letter is an ‘important step’ in the budget planning and provides background information to help people to understand the scale of the financial challenges the council is facing and how it plans to prioritise spending.

It also highlights some difficult issues for the authority in having to put more than £10m aside to pay for up to 690 redundancies the council will have to make next year.

The letter, which has cost around 9p per household to produce, has a freepost feedback slip to return and all responses will be considered by councillors ahead of the budget which will be approved in March. The deadline for responses to the letter is January 6, 2012.

Coun Dore said no decisions have yet been taken on what cuts should be made over the next year - but the authority has had a head start in making savings in 2012/13, with £12 million recouped from the cost of the Highways PFI resurfacing scheme through changing borrowing arrangements, £15 million of efficiencies identified before any services have to be cut, and a predicted underspend of £1.4 million in the 2011/12 financial year.