Friday, 20 January 2012

Budget Proposals

This week the Administration has published its draft budget for the coming financial year.This will be considered in cabinet next week before being referred to all three council scrutiny committees and the Business Ratepayers Consultative Forum. Subject to any amendments which result from this process the draft budget will then go back to cabinet before being debated by full council when the final budget will be approved.

Obviously we face a significant financial challenge and these proposals reflect a massive amount of work by senior officers and my colleagues in cabinet.

It is also important that we do not under estimate the challenge that remains over at least the next 2 years. The Chancellor has made clear that we will have further reductions in funding over the remainder of current spending review period and that this is likely to continue for at least a further year after that!

Our proposed revenue budget is £130.3M. It requires savings of £11.8M.

The economies are being found from the four council directorates (£7.4M), corporately (£354K) and by new cross cutting work streams (£3.9M)which try to deliver greater efficiencies and new ways of working without direct effect on service delivery.

We are proposing accepting the government’s council tax subsidy which means that council tax for residents will be frozen.I am also pressing the government to accept that this subsidy should extend to more than one year.

We anticipate up to 120(FTE) job losses of which 49 are currently vacant.

The Dedicated Schools Budget is slightly increased and the effect for Southend Schools is that income will slightly increase (0.35%-0.95%) as will the Pupil Premium (£600 per pupil from £488).

Other than fees and charges prescribed by statute we have tried to maintain most culture fees at current levels and are also holding car parking charges (for the third year out of four).

Council rents will rise by an average of 8.05% in accordance with government aspirations to see convergence with housing authority rents and we are being required by the government to take over direct responsibility for our share of the HRA national debt (£35.27M) although this will be met from the HRA and not general revenue account.

New capital projects for 12/13 to 15/16 of £49.3M are proposed but this includes HRA investment and other new items including certain statutory obligations, the schools capital fund, the Pier, Cliffs Stabilisation and ICT investment.

I now await the input from opposition parties with interest. In my years as Leader we have only ever had one minor amendment proposed (The Lib Dem Leader trying to play party politics a few years ago)since which time the opposition councillors have failed to make any alternative proposals but with the majority voting against our budget!

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