Councillor Bayliss said: “It’s obvious from the Prime Minister’s comments last week that he simply doesn’t grasp the reality of the situation here in Derby.
“We’re not cutting budgets on a whim – we’re a City with a population of nearly 250,000 people and the frontline services we provide are already stretched to the limit. If the Prime Minister or his Government had responded in any meaningful way to the Fair Deal for Derby campaign, then the situation may not be so stark.
“If it comes down to a choice between keeping a busy children’s centre open or having new seasonal flower beds planted, the decision is simple – people always come first.
“While I appreciate that ‘Derby in Bloom’ on Pentagon Island and the beautiful flowerbeds that grace our parks and traffic islands have been a long-standing tradition in Derby, at this moment in time we need to acknowledge where funding and grants would be better spent.
“The flowerbeds will still be there, but will contain more cost-effective permanent plants that don’t require constant attention. I know a lot of people will be upset by this decision, but by doing this we will save £88,000 in 2013/14 and £21,000 in 2014/15. Obviously we are more than willing to welcome anyone who wants to sponsor them their selves, or plant them out at no cost to the Council.
“As a Local Authority, we have to make at least £80 million of cuts between 2014-15 and 2016-17. That’s on top of the £68 million of cuts we’ve already made over the past three years, so I would hope that, in the long run, cutting back on flowerbeds won’t be seen as too much of a hardship.
“We’re working with Streetpride and hope to roll out new initiatives so which will enable residents to take control of their own neighbourhood flowerbeds so they can get involved and reap the benefits of having attractive plants and flowers bloom where they live.
“Mr Cameron also went on to suggest that we’re not ‘transparent’ enough when it comes to our spending and that we were not the ‘fastest off the blocks when it comes to finding savings in bureaucracy’.
“It’s a shame we weren’t given the opportunity to respond to these ludicrous comments sooner. We have always been open and honest with the residents of the City and the County about the ways in which we are cutting budgets.
“We make no excuses for this, and we aren’t hiding this fact away. We’re making cuts in the smartest ways possible, and are consulting with our partners every step of the way. It’s never a nice or easy task and some budgets will certainly be reduced or even removed completely, but in the challenging economic climate we are experiencing this is the reality we are facing, as are nearly all councils – but maybe not Witney.
“As for the Prime Minister comparing us to his constituency of Witney and how they share their Chief Executive and finance team with a neighbouring council, well we just can’t follow suit. Derby and Derbyshire have a combined population of 1 million people – a few more than Witney’s 25,000 – so this just isn’t feasible or indeed practical.
“We continue to work very closely with Derbyshire County Council, especially in the area of economic development, and we’re very proud of our relationship with them. As a City Council, we are proudly doing the best we can and will continue to put the needs of our residents at the forefront of our plans and actions unlike Mr Cameron.”
The Leader of Derby City Council has reacted angrily to comments from Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that that Derby City Council needed to look closer to home when it came to cutting budget costs.
Mr Cameron’s comments came in an interview with Ian Sykes during BBC Radio Derby’s Breakfast Show on Friday 18 October, and Councillor Paul Bayliss has today responded by stating that having to choose between keeping frontline services for both the young and old running and maintaining the City’s flowerbeds is the simple choice; people always come first.
Read more on the Fair Deal for Derby campaign here.