HOUSEHOLDERS are being invited to take part in a new project to discuss the future direction of Swindon Council, as demand for services rises and Government funding reduces.
The Big Conversation aims to create a two-way dialogue with residents on council services and the key challenges the authority faces – to produce better-informed decisions which the community will be involved in.
The council says the impact of an ageing population, increasing demand across the board and reduced funding means things will have to be done differently, so improving awareness of what the council does, how much it costs and the bigger picture will help people to understand why this is happening.
To support the Big Conversation, Swindon Council has produced an illustrated online presentation to show the facts and figures in a way that is easy to understand and prompts discussion.
Residents are encouraged to share their views by talking to ward councillors or emailing Bigconversation@swindon.gov.
They can also tweet about it, using the hashtag #Bigconversation, and or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/swindonbigconversation.
Council leader Rod Bluh said: “Local councils are facing unprecedented challenges and Swindon, unfortunately, is no exception. “We know people do not feel informed about where the money is spent, the issues concerned and how to influence decisions.
“The Big Conversation is part of our commitment to try and change this – we will be presenting information in more engaging ways and encouraging as many people as we can to join the discussion.
“Some of the facts about now and the future are quite startling, but it is right to get them out there and start talking. There are no easy answers and lots of tough choices lie ahead.
“However, I am passionate about facing these as openly and constructively as possible, so we can continue to help build stronger communities in Swindon. “Hopefully this information will spark lots of conversations, large and small, whether in person or online, with families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, Council staff and of course councillors. “The issues will undoubtedly affect us all and I look forward to joining the discussions and listening to your comments.”
Swindon Council needs to find savings of about £15m to balance its budget for 2013/14 and there is expected to be a similar gap in future years, which the cabinet says will be evermore challenging to plug without redesigning services.
Estimates for Swindon show the population of people aged 85 and over is expected to rise by 59.4 per cent by 2022, with the number of people aged 75 and over to increase by 40 per cent.
And in the next 10 years the number of people in residential care homes is set to rise by 40 per cent.
For more information, visit www.swindon.gov.uk/bigconversation