Council releases proposals on ‘most difficult budget’

Proposals on how the council will spend its £800 million budget delivering hundreds of services for the next financial year have been released.

The public can now see a committee report on the extremely difficult decisions councillors must make when they begin considering the proposals at the council’s Policy & Resources Committee on Thursday 9 February.

All 54 councillors will then look to agree the final budget for 2023/24 two weeks later at the annual council budget meeting on Thursday 23 February.

Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty has already warned that ‘only difficult decisions remain on the budget’ as we face a shortfall of £14.3 million due to demand for our services, very high inflation, the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

Government has cut council funding by £110 million  

Over the last 13 years the government has cut our annual funding by over £110 million in real terms. 

The committee report includes a proposal to increase council tax by 4.99%. 2% of this increase is ringfenced to Adult Social Care which means it is required to be spent on providing services to vulnerable, disabled and frail older people.    

Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “This is one of the most difficult budgets the council has faced in my twelve years as a councillor and we’re doing everything we can to protect vital council services. Every council team has been asked to find potential savings and this has been a hugely painful process.  

“We’ve been honest with the city by discussing the tough decisions and the complexity of the problems we face with our valued staff and trade unions, residents, partners, businesses and the city councillors from the other parties. 

‘We’re acting on behalf of our residents’ 

“Since the budget blueprint was published in December, we’ve been working flat out to make every penny go further. Contributions from across the city highlighted the most urgent needs and guided the difficult decisions, and whilst there will be services that will be impacted, vital services will continue to be funded.  

“This is alongside the priorities for residents across the city such as public toilets, and with emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable such as children’s nurseries.  

“However very sadly, because of the magnitude of the government cuts, millions of pounds still have to be saved now and in future years so there are other services that councillors will have to decide to stop or change.  

“It’s deeply upsetting that, like many other councils across the country, this is the financial situation we find ourselves in and that only difficult decisions remain.” 

Why the council faces a £14 million shortfall  

Below shows how much extra income the council will receive for 2023/24 against the extra spending it faces. 

Total increase in the council’s costs for 2023/24

  • Inflation, the general increase in prices - £28 million 
  • Growth in demand for services - £15 million 

Total extra council funding and taxation for 2023/24

  • From government grants, council tax increases and retained business rates - £29 million 

Total shortfall

  • Extra spending totals £43 million; extra funding and taxation £29 million; therefore the shortfall is £14 million.

‘Difficult and painful decisions must be made’

Councillor Mac Cafferty added: “I didn’t stand for office to cut services to our residents or to make staff redundant. But with funding being reduced in real terms by £14 million, we still have many difficult and painful decisions to make.

“We also have to set a balanced budget, something we are legally required to do. We will continue to work our hardest to protect local public services as much as we can and continue to help the most marginalised in our city.

“We’ll also continue to lobby government with the loudest voices for the funding we know Brighton & Hove needs and deserves.”

Cost of running council services

It costs more than £2.3 million to run council services every day.

Council tax provides for only around £1 in every £5 we spend on delivering hundreds of city services. The rest comes from fees, charges, rents, retained business rates and government grants.

About half the budget is restricted by law and must be spent on schools, housing benefits, council housing and public health. 

One of the biggest areas of spending is on adult social care for people who are frail, disabled, or have mental health or other conditions.