SAVINGS of £25m will have to be made from the Wiltshire Council’s budget next year as central government grants are slashed.

Government grants made up £8.1m of the council’s overall £327m funding this year, however next year that total will be reduced to £0 as Wiltshire becomes one of 168 districts, counties, unitaries and London boroughs which will have Government funding abandoned.

In order to balance the books, the council must save £25m. To achieve this, it plans to hand over more services to town and parish councils and is investing in ways to make services digital.

Baroness Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council said: “There has been a reduction in funding but an increase in the demand on services which has put increased pressure on this council. Next year the figure is £25m of savings and again we have been working very hard to make sure they do not adversely affect the services that people really rely on.“One thing this council has always done is protect the vulnerable, older people, children in care and disabled.

“This council has to come up with different ways of doing things. We have to be even more efficient year on year. One way to do this is to look at digital services and how this can create further solutions to make us more efficient, while at the same time remembering that there are some people who do not use digital. We still need to offer that face to face contact.” Speaking at a public meeting held last night in County Hall in Trowbridge, outlining the authority’s plans for the future, the council leader praised the work being done in Salisbury, confirmed it would continue to help businesses to recover but revealed that footfall is still down by 20 per cent and tourism is down by 30 to 40 per cent.

Mr Whitehead said that devolving the running of more to town and parish councils would create a saving of £400k.

Cllr Philip Whitehead said: “We are good at the big strategic decisions, we are not always brilliant at the little things and local people can be better placed for this. We make savings everyday not just at once in a year.”

The council wants to increase the number of services digitally available and claim it will save the council £5m every year by 2021. One million calls are currently made to Wiltshire Council every year, which costs £2.50 every time someone dials. It hopes to use better website services to slash that number and cut costs. Cllr Whitehead said: “We need a different way and we are looking at other ways to transform , digitise, commercialise and devolve services. Every phone call currently costs between £2.50 and £5. If half of these can be answered using automated system or on the web, we can save money.”