Council leader pledges to listen to the public ahead of budget cuts consultation (From The Advertiser Series)
Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
Council leader pledges to listen to the public ahead of budget cuts consultation
A COUNCIL leader has said the authority would be mad not to listen to public opinion ahead of tough budget cuts as he acknowledged a level of cynicism among Darlington residents about taking part in consultation.
Councillor Bill Dixon pledged to explain all future budget decisions "in a clear and transparent way" to any Darlington resident who feels an incorrect decision has been made by councillors.
Darlington Borough Council is preparing for one of the biggest consultation exercises in the authority’s history as it looks to cut £17m from its budget in the next four years.
The council has warned that "nothing is sacred" and urged people to attend the meetings of four budget advisory panels later this year to give their ideas and views on what services should be cut and what should be saved.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s cabinet, Coun Dixon said: “I can understand a degree of cynicism from the public about the consultation. But if you think the cuts have been bad so far then you’ve seen nothing yet.
“The council and the cabinet would be mad not to take into account the views of the public. There would be no point in doing the consultation and just ignoring what the public has said.
“Where we can’t do what the public say they want to see, we will give them a clear and transparent reason why not. I will give a very clear take on why something is not possible.
“I can’t sit here and say that everything the public asks for will be granted but, if there is anything they reasonably ask for and we can’t afford to do it, we should be able to give a reasonable answer about why we can’t.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said: “We support what is being done but we have to be honest and up front with people if they are asking for things to happen. We need to know the structure of these panels and how they will make recommendations.
“We’ve got to encourage as many members of the public to be involved as possible.”