Ambitious budget approved for 2018/19

Published Friday, 23rd February 2018

Piggy Bank with 2018/19

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has agreed its budget for 2018/19 that will see the Borough ‘advance and prosper’ into the future.

A further £20m will be invested in new and existing projects up to March 2020 and a further £2.7m of council capital funding is also being set aside towards developing ‘The Forum II’, an educational, cultural and business space for the digital, cultural and creative industries.

This additional investment means that some £211m of capital investments will made into the Borough over the next four years.

The key investment approved includes adding a further £10m to the current budget for investment in commercial property if and when appropriate opportunities arise, £3.7m on highways schemes, £1m for fire improvement works, £875,000 to convert the former Beecroft Art Gallery, £400,000 to create a small number of local residential care places for children, and £750,000 to get the Better Queensway project to the next stage of development.

The new investment would take the approved capital programme for 2018/19 to 2021/22 to £211m of which the level of external funding to support this investment will be around £91m. For 2018/19 alone, the investment in the Borough will be around £93m.

Cllr John Lamb, Leader of the Council, says: “This is a budget that ensures, despite all the challenges we face and continued central Government funding reductions, we remain bold, ambitious and invest in our Borough to ensure that we advance and prosper into the future.

“We must continue to fund essential things like secondary school places, invest in plans to look after our elderly and vulnerable, carry out important flood prevention works in the central seafront area, carry out fire improvement works where necessary and keep all our buildings up to the standard that local people rightly expect.

“Wherever possible these projects will bring income into the council or they just must be done.  Despite the austere times this gives us an impressive capital budget to make a difference to important local facilities and infrastructure and shows that we are open for business and here to do the very best for local people and businesses.”

In addition to the capital investments approved, council tax will rise 4.49% (2.99% for general use and 1.5% for adult social care), as the council seeks to save £9.7m from its revenue budget in 2018/19. This follows another reduction in the main grant the council receives from central Government of £4.4m (30% reduction). The main Government grant now accounts for just 8% of the council’s net budget, compared to nearly 50% six years ago.

As a result, £7.215m of departmental savings and new income will be made, plus £379,000 from Public Health. In addition, £2.5m of the Council Tax collection Fund will be used to smooth the council’s budget gap over the next three years. The budget also includes £3.8m to be invested into services, of which £3.4m is specifically for Adults and Children’s spending given the significant cost and demand pressures in those areas.  

Cllr John Lamb, concludes: “Our central funding grant continues to fall significantly and will be minimal by 2020.  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 such as raising council tax by 4.49% or around £1.09 a week. In total this is an annual rise of £56.88 for a Band D household.

“I do not want to raise council tax, 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 £15m in total over the next three years - £470,000 a month or £22,000 per working day.”