7 February 2014

Prevention better than cure

Council budget proposals for 2014/15 are being set out which reflect the city’s concerns and address a challenging reduction in funding from Government*

The proposals have been developed to support and protect services for residents, visitors and businesses whilst continuing to invest in preventive work in social care and public health as well as the council’s ICT infrastructure where if investment is not made now the long terms costs would be far greater.

The report going to the Policy and Resources Committee on February 13th 2014 sets out the initial proposals for the General Fund Revenue Budget and Council Tax for 2014/15. 

The savings gap of £2.48m reported to December’s Policy and Resources committee has been closed.

Council tax

The core of the budget has to be based on an assumed council tax threshold increase of 1.97%. However the proposed increase in council tax is 4.75% which if agreed would require a referendum.

A council tax increase of 4.75% results in a band D council tax of £1,348.11 an increase of £61.11 on this year.

A threshold increase of 1.97% in the council tax results in a band D council tax for the city council element of the council tax of £1,312.35 an increase of £25.35

The total council savings in 2014/15 would be £14.425m with the higher tax rise or £16.740m if the lower figure were agreed including an ambitious target to extend the council’s Value for Money Programme.

Council Leader Jason Kitcat said; ”With the recession and government cuts these are tough times for everyone, including for those who depend on the council’s essential services. We have continued with the most open budget process the city has ever seen. We responded to the feedback by amending proposals and putting forward a council tax referendum whilst continuing to save millions by doing things differently. We have been open about the crisis facing funding for local services, we face some stark and difficult choices in the coming weeks about services that our most vulnerable residents depend on.”

Key proposals

  • Freezing parking charges
  • Freezing Carelink charges for more than 6,000 units currently in use
  • No changes to the council tax reduction scheme which helps support those on low income with their council tax bills
  • No changes to eligibility criteria for getting help from social care 
  • Council support for carers protected
  • Redesign of Adult Social Care provider services while ensuring all eligible needs are met.
  • All library buildings and children’s centres to remain open
  • A continued value for money programme to deliver financial and carbon savings from using fewer office buildings and making better use of technology
  • Investment in early help for children and families to help reduce the numbers of children who need to come into local authority care
  • Investment in alternative choices to traditional residential and nursing home care that help people to stay in their own homes or get extra support to stay as independent as possible 
  • Minimise compulsory redundancies by offering a voluntary severance scheme where services are being redesigned
  • On going support to financial advice agencies in the city to help residents cope with the government’s welfare reforms

Consultation and engagement activity has influenced the original budget proposals published in December for example;

  • Applying no inflationary increase to parking charges
  • Protecting spend on the public realm.
  • Reduction in the saving for the Able & Willing service subsidy. The proposals for a 4.75% council tax set aside a significant proportion of the additional resources to reduce the required savings in Adult Social Care;
  • Provision of sufficient funding to enable the homework clubs in libraries to guarantee they can continue to the end of the current school year;
  • Changes to savings in Children’s Services to ensure equal impact on council and community & voluntary sector service provision;
  • The removal of a saving for homelessness prevention

Background

Over the last three years we’ve saved around £60m mainly by doing things differently and working more efficiently to minimise the impact on services.

We need to plan to save around £100m over the next 4-5 years.  We’re working year round on being more efficient, learning what works to save money and making changes to improve.

These changes and the push from central government towards increased self sufficiency mean many local authorities, including Brighton & Hove, will also need to look at alternative options for the commissioning and delivery of services and make difficult decisions about priorities.

Editor’s notes

Budget proposal papers here

We’ve made a short animation to make it easier to understand the council budget. www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/budgetvideo will redirect straight to youtube 
Budget proposals 2014/15 is coming to Policy & Resources committee on 13th February 2014 papers here

The budget council meeting will be held on 27th February 2014 to determine both the budget and the council tax for 2014/15.

The budget papers and budget pages are available on the council’s website at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/bhbudget

Follow the Brighton & Hove City Council budget discussion on twitter at #bhbudget

* The Local Government Finance settlement which in real terms i.e. taking into account inflation has reduced by -12.3% for 2014/15.