MID Devon District Council has moved a step closer to tackling its £2 million budget deficit.
A possible £1.3 million of savings and cuts have been identified to help balance next year’s budget.
Council officers presented the authority’s cabinet meeting with potential ways to save money or make cuts to services, and councillors now have to decide which ones to pursue.
A colour-coded metric for the cuts showed just £269,000 of the possible £1.3 million worth of savings are green, meaning “low risk”.
More than £535,000 are amber, or medium risk, and more than £532,000 are deemed red, with higher risks and impacts on services.
Even if all the options are accepted, it still leaves a £765,000 budget shortfall, a significant issue given councils are legally required to set a balanced budget.
Andrew Jarratt, deputy chief executive of the council, outlined the tough choices.
“We have done the efficiency agenda to death, and so we are getting to the stage where any further budgetary reductions mean a reduction in service delivery,” he said.
“We do consider how a saving in the budget will impact service delivery so that members can make the right decisions.”
The biggest possible single saving identified could come from a cut to services and not filling job roles which become vacant.
But £363,000 of such potential cuts are identified as red, meaning they would “not be recommended due to the severe negative impact on service delivery”.
Seeking a financial contribution from some or all major town councils for the upkeep of certain buildings, or transferring ownership of them to smaller authorities, could save £150,000, but is also categorised as red in the report, which added: “Current negotiations are not overly encouraging”.
Other potentially controversial ideas include reducing community grants for organisations, such as Citizens Advice and Mid Devon Mobility, increasing garden waste and trade waste fees, and upping parking charges.
Councillor Steve Keable (Lib Dem, Taw Vale) noted what he called a “fire sale” of assets by Devon County Council in a bid to raise funds, and questioned whether Mid Devon could do the same.
However, Mr Jarratt said that the district council is “not overly asset rich”, and that all its properties are used for service provision or provide rental income.
“We actually have ongoing discussions with the county council, and because of their willingness to get rid of some of their assets, they might be seeking to occupy some of our offices at Phoenix House,” he said.
“This shows that one authority’s energy to reduce their asset exposure could be another authority’s gain hopefully.”
Deputy leader Jane Lock (Lib Dem, Canonsleigh) asked whether sharing services with other authorities could also help save money.
Mr Jarratt added that this was regularly pursued and had gained traction in some service areas but not in others.
The council was told that the 2023/24 budget had only been balanced after a staffing savings target of £400,000, which involved not filling posts that became vacant, and £625,000 from reserves.
Mr Jarratt added that the council’s financial position could change once Westminster had confirmed the grant levels as part of its local government finance settlement.