Bella Sankey has today issued a stark warning on the financial situation faced by the council.
It follows an Autumn Statement and local government settlement for next year that falls ‘disastrously short’ of meeting the huge inflationary costs and increasing demand we're facing next year for our services.
In the last 13 years, the government has slashed the council’s budget by £120 million in real terms.
The government’s Autumn Statement has provided no new funding from what was previously announced in 2022, despite a period of very high inflation and growing demands for council services and homelessness support driven by the cost-of-living crisis.
The council is now left with an effective budget gap of £31 million for next year’s budget.
Protecting vital services and focusing on what matters to residents
Although the council is doing everything it can to reduce inequality and tackle poverty and homelessness during the current cost of living crisis, the very large shortfall in our funding will mean extremely difficult decisions being taken to protect essential services.
Councillor Sankey wrote to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for a fair deal for the city in his Autumn Statement last week.
Councillor Sankey said today: “The council’s finances are in an extremely perilous position.
"There was absolutely nothing in the Autumn Statement to provide relief for this council or local authorities who have faced a decade of central government austerity or any real-world financial help for struggling families.
Services under extra pressure
“Demand for our services is increasing, especially in key areas like adult social care, children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and homelessness, which is putting pressure on other services.
“Even the Government’s own Household Support Fund, which allowed the council to give extra help to households in Brighton & Hove struggling to pay for food, energy and other essential costs, is being cut.
“We’re being forced to look at every one of the 400 services we provide and start the extremely difficult process of deciding what are priority services and what aren’t.
“To put it bluntly, the less money we have the less services we can provide.”
Many councils have already declared themselves ‘bankrupt’
The local government funding crisis has already seen many councils throughout the country issuing a so-called ‘Section 114 Notice’, effectively declaring themselves bankrupt. Although the council isn’t in this position yet, it is in financial peril.
Councillor Sankey added: “While we await the final detail on the local government settlement, we will almost certainly have to find millions more savings next year than planned because the government is not addressing the crisis in local government funding.
‘Doing everything we can to balance the budget’
“I want to reassure all of our residents we are doing everything we can to make service improvements while balancing the council’s budget, which is a legal requirement.
“We’ve had a staff vacancy freeze at the council for most of the year, worked quickly with officers to find in-year savings this year and have been working on budgets and savings for next year.
“The disastrous Autumn Statement means that we now have even tougher decisions ahead but must find ways of reorganising the council to ensure we are at the very least providing basic and essential services.”