AFTER a series of meetings over several weeks, I and my fellow council leaders are getting close to finalising our proposals for our next budget.

We have already shared these with the Conservative ‘opposition’ group in a spirit of co-operation.

We won’t agree on everything, but I believe there will be more that unites us than divides us, given the inescapable nature of most of the costs your parish council has to bear.

Finances being so tight, there are precious few ‘optional extras’ to argue over.

Where there are choices, we’ve chosen – as we have throughout this administration - to prioritise what you said was important to you when you elected us. Which means working to make Salisbury a green and lively city, where residents’ voices are heard, their wellbeing is improved, and sustainability is at the heart of all decisions. That’s our mantra, if you like.

So you are very welcome to join us at an open meeting at the Guildhall this coming Monday at 6.30pm.

It won’t be a political, confrontational, stand-up-with-a-microphone kind of meeting, because we want those who are shy about expressing their views in public to feel confident that they will get an equal hearing.

It’ll involve sitting round tables with fellow residents, councillors and officers, where you can see a broad breakdown of what we spend on the services we provide, ask questions, or raise any points that are important to you.

These will be written down and taken away to be considered by us before the budget is finalised for our January full council meeting.

This is just the last leg of a consultation process that began months ago.

We started by trying to clear up the enduring confusion about which authority does what. I know, I know, it’s boring, when all you want is ‘the council’ to sort something out and you don’t care who does it. But we do have clearly defined roles and we can’t just pile in on other people’s territory.

So we explained all that in a leaflet posted to homes throughout the parish, which also invited residents to complete a survey. We set up a ‘meet the council’ market stall in August, and held a focus group in early November.

I believe that after Monday’s meeting we’ll have consulted as fully as we can without blowing the budget on it, and I hope we’ve set a precedent that succeeding administrations will commit themselves to follow.