Council unveils draft budget for 2019/20

Published Wednesday, 9th January 2019

Budget 2019/20 on Yellow to Red gradient background.

The council is set to invest £6.6m more into vital frontline services in 2019/20.

The news comes as the council announces its draft budget proposals for the next financial year.

With central Government funding reducing by 42% to just £5.9m (from £10.3m last year and £21.3m in 2016/17), to balance the budget the council will need to find over £4m in budget reductions and new income and proposes that council tax rises by 4.49% (£1.12 a week), with 2.99% for general use and 1.5% being levied to be spent specifically on adult social care.

The majority of the ongoing annual investment (£5.7m) will be to ensure that the council can meet the many demands and cost pressures being faced in adults and children’s services now and into the future, deal with the impact of the living wage and invest in continuing to transform these services (see separate release).  These investments will be funded through the adult social care precept, the new social care grant and increased resources from the Better Care Fund (BCF).

Of the £4.1m of budget reductions, nearly £1m will be met from the council’s improved commercial returns, with £0.45m being generated from a commercial property purchase in late 2017/18 and the letting of space in the Civic Centre and £0.35m from improved general rental and lease income and better returns on long-term investments.

The council has also worked with partners in health and social care to transform working practices and create community-based services designed to help individuals help themselves. It is hoped this can be widened to include other council services such as highways, waste, customer service etc. Other efficiency savings include the use of technology in children’s services and changes in management of children on the ‘edge of care’ to reduce the need for high cost placements. All the above changes combined are expected to save the Council a further £2m. Internal council staffing restructures and changes made via our procurement processes, will lead to a further expected saving of £0.9m.  

The budget also identifies around £3.4m of time limited investments over the next three years, including £0.4m to continue school improvement support, £0.15m additional resources for the busy summer period and £0.45m for support to actively progress housing initiatives. These investments will be funded through earmarked reserves.

Cllr John Lamb, Leader of the Council says:  “As our community continues to grow, pressures on adult and children’s services rise, and central Government funding reduces to zero, we have to be more mindful than ever of how we spend local taxpayer’s money.

“It is part of the Government’s strategy to both enforce funding reforms and at the same time support councils to become financially self-sufficient organisations. We have developed a range of long-term investment and alternative income streams to alleviate the funding pressure, but these will take time to fully generate the income we need them too and as a result we need to focus more on a longer term budget. 

“However, this is a good news budget, as our strategic and commercial approach is starting to bear fruit, and despite losing significant Government grant, we are still able to deliver a balanced budget which makes appropriate savings, but also allows us to invest £6.6m into vital frontline services such as children’s and adults services and community safety.

“As such, and bearing in mind that our main government grant has continually reduced to just £5.9m and by 72% over the last four years, we must also propose a council tax increase to set a balanced budget and ensure it remains sustainable into the future.

“The resident and stakeholder led ambition document Southend 2050, has helped us identify the type of town our residents and stakeholders want to see. With involvement from more than 35,000 people, it helps us to focus both on the work that is needed now, but also over the next few years, to help make those ambitions a reality.

“We are looking towards the future and ways in which we can focus on delivering council-run services in a more targeted way, to those who need our help the most. At the foremost of our thoughts is the community, our residents and businesses and making sure they can access the help and support they need to control the factors affecting their lives as much as possible.”

The draft budget will be considered by the council’s cabinet next week (Thursday 17 January), consulted on and go through the council’s scrutiny committees, with the final budget to be discussed and approved at Full Council on Thursday 21 February 2019.