Changes to the council’s draft budget for 2024/25 have been made.
This follows a period of engagement with councillors and other key stakeholders (Cabinet, Tuesday 13 February).
The main change proposes a £100,000 investment to provide a new type of dementia carer support. This funding would enable the development of dementia support groups across the four localities to enable carer support, information and advice and enable peer support. This will include the retention of the Winderemere Club as an ongoing group. It would fund two community navigators/community builders to support these groups. These two roles would also provide support and advice to social care teams and community groups and undertake carer assessments where required.
The investment would also provide funding for additional carer support and advice via partners to support the community groups going forward. This new investment follows the ending of joint commissioning arrangements with partners which led to the proposal to decommission the dementia community support team for which the council contributes £250,000 a year.
Cllr James Moyies, cabinet member with responsibility for adult social care, says: “Due to partners withdrawing funding from the dementia community support service, and the overall financial challenges we face, we have had to review and re-examine this service and indeed all the services we offer.
"However, we understand the importance of dementia support and I have listened to many views expressed through the public consultation on this and I have spoken directly to some of those impacted. I am therefore pleased that we can announce a £100,000 investment that will allow us to fund two dementia community navigator roles that will provide support to those impacted by this life changing condition. We are also continuing with plans to modernise our adult social care department and improve our carer response.
“It is important to stress that the current service that is proposed to stop is jointly commissioned and funded, and for the council to take this on solely would cost much more than the current £250,000 contribution. We have therefore had to propose this alternative approach that is within our financial means and will provide support for those in the city. This also demonstrates that we listen.”
Some amendments to car parking charges have also been proposed, with a 50% increase to the Southend Pass being reduced to 25%. This would mean the parking pass, which allows up to 12 hours parking across the city's four parking zones a day would rise to £12.50 a month rather than the original suggested £15. Current charges at Southchurch Park East would also be reversed. It is also proposed that £75,000 is earmarked from reserves for specific tourism and events subject to business cases being made, and £100,000 to develop plans to introduce a locality model across the city.
Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the council, says: “I have said many times that we face tough financial times and tough decisions. However, we have also listened and I am pleased that we can make some sensible suggestion to the draft council budget for 2024/25 and look forward to debating these at cabinet next week and Full Council at the end of February.”
The dementia carer support proposals will be funded from the additional social care grant announced by the Government on Monday 5 February. The other revenue budget amendments totalling £600,000 will be covered by a reduction in the budget originally allocated for energy inflation, with the council recently renegotiating its energy tariffs which is expected to have a positive impact on costs.
In the revised capital budget, it is proposed to move £5.5m a year (up to 2028/29) for pavement and road improvements up into the priority schemes section, along with £700,000 for investment into public toilet provision.
The draft budget was published at the start of January and has since been through scrutiny meetings, and engagement with the business community. A number of related public consultations have also recently finished linked to some of the proposals such as family centre services and dementia support.