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News - 29 November 2014

The most radical Council budget in decades

Brighton & Hove City Council has released details of the draft budget for 2015/16. With savings of £26m required it was always going to be radical. With another 76m to be found in the three years after that, future budgets are likely to be savage.

The council has looked at three scenarios which will now be fought over by the three main political parties before a final budget is agreed in February 2015. If council tax is frozen the budget shortfall will be £26.36m; a 1.99% increase in council tax would still require savings of £25.45m and a 5.9% increase in council tax, which is being proposed by The Greens but would require a city-wide referendum, would still leave a shortfall of £21.25m.

The report going to the Policy & Resources Committee on 4th December predicts between 200 and 250 jobs will have to be lost, on top of those lost already, and some activities will cease altogether.

Contributions to Portslade Sports Centre, political assistants for party leaders, the Communities Against Drugs project, the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, new and replacement tree planting and the Head of Housing post will all be scrapped and support for the Mayor’s office will be cut to the marrow.

The Third Sector will lose £175,000 of funding and the Youth Service will see its net budget more or less halved. Home to school transport will lose £500,000 from a net £2.3m budget and City Clean & Parks will see £600,000 cut from an existing net budget of over £13m achieved by a ‘service redesign' [little further details].

Communications and Economic Development get off relatively lightly with cuts of £25,000 and £35,000 respectively; likely to be a single post in each department. The latter probably reflects the increasing importance of Economic Development in helping to attract funding from business rates on new build workspace and its record of attracting European funding.

More controversial for the business community is the planning department which will have to save £230,000 achieved by increasing fees and reducing staffing. Many commentators want to see an increase in staff at the department which appears to be permanently stretched.

The proposals also include £2m saved in a review of support services for vulnerable people and £2.5m cuts in children’s services.

There are also proposals to redesign on-street parking by removing cash based parking meters over the next two years and review the costs of permit parking. Discounts currently available on the council tax of empty, unfurnished or uninhabitable properties will be scrapped possibly raising an additional £1.3m per annum.

The Economic Partnership has organised a meeting on Tuesday 2nd December for the business community to hear a presentation on the draft budget from Chief Executive Penny Thompson.


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