Council unveils draft budget for 2018/19

Published Wednesday, 10th January 2018

Piggy Bank with 2018/19

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council will need to save £9.7m in 2018/19.

View the full draft budget proposals on our democracy pages.

This follows the news that the main grant the council receives from central Government will decrease again in 2018/19, this time by £4.4m (29% reduction) to the remaining sum of £10.3 m. The figures have been revealed as the council unveils its draft revenue budget for 2018/19. The main Government grant now accounts for just 8% of the council’s net budget, compared to nearly 50% six years ago.

By 2020, the council will receive minimal Government funding and will be mainly reliant on council tax, business rates, and fees and charges as its main sources of funding.

Along with making savings or generating more income, the council also has to find £3.8m to deal with ‘service pressures’ it faces, including £1.2m to meet increases in childcare numbers and costs, £960,000 for the national living wage, £500,000 to care for an ageing population that need council support, £500,000 to help children with learning disabilities move into adult social care, and £130,000 to modernise and extend the council’s CCTV service.

The council is also proposing some one-off investment items including £75,000 to explore and research options to help combat and support the prevention of homelessness, £250,000 to continue preventative work by the edge of care team to reduce the number of children being taken into care and £200,000 to continue school improvement support and the council’s successful 11 plus campaign.

As a result, the budget proposals identify £7.215m of departmental savings and new income plus £379,000 from Public Health. In addition, council reserves of £2.5m will be used to smooth the council’s budget gap over the next three years.

Additionally council tax will rise by 4.49%, with 2.99% for general use and 1.5% being levied to be spent specifically on adult social care. Savings will be made across the council’s three departments by renegotiating contracts, transforming services, increasing income in various areas such as car parking, and innovative projects such as providing full fibre broadband to schools.

Cllr John Lamb, Leader of the Council says:  “Whilst we have been able to set a balanced budget every year since austerity began, there is no doubt that some councils across the country find themselves at financial breaking point.

“Our central funding grant continues to fall significantly and will be minimal by 2020.  The pace of this was meant to coincide with councils keeping all of their business rates by 2019/20.  However, this will not now happen as the Government has decided that only 75 per cent of business rates income will be retained by councils from 2020/21. In the meantime, the numbers of people needing our help and support continues to rise significantly.

“This means that we have to continually make some hard choices that enable us to make the significant savings required but continue to do the basics and most importantly look after and protect our most vulnerable people.

“We must raise council tax by 4.49% or around £1.09 a week which includes the 1.5% social care precept (36p a week) which is ring-fenced to help fund our social care services. In total this is an annual rise of £56.88 for a Band D household.

“I do not want to announce a proposed council tax rise, but continual and significant central Government cuts and the financial situation make any other scenario impossible.  Even with the rises and savings that we are announcing, we estimate that after this year, we will still need to save £417,000 a month or £19,000 per working day over the next three years (£15m in total).

“However despite all of this, we are still investing almost £4m into services, with £3.4m to deal specifically with increased pressures we are facing in high demand areas of adult social care and child care.

“Looking to the future, we will need to increasingly focus the delivery of our services in a more targeted way and to those who need our help, and we will need to adopt this approach in tailoring our statutory services too. As we move forward we will reposition ourselves as a council to help the community, its residents and businesses take personal control over as many factors affecting their lives as possible.”

Savings and new income are proposed to be made across the key spending areas as follows:

  • Department for People - £3.165m
  • Department for Place - £1.22m
  • Chief Executives Department - £2.83m
  • Public Health - £379,000

The full listing of the proposed savings can be viewed here 

Up to six full time equivalent (FTE) posts will be deleted through the proposals, with five of those currently vacant, and the one remaining post being met through voluntary redundancy.

The draft budget will be considered by the council’s cabinet next week (Thursday 18), consulted on and go through the council’s scrutiny committees, with the final budget to be discussed and approved at Full Council on Thursday 22 February 2018.