Brighton and Hove council faces £100m funding shortfall

Posted On 30 Sep 2014 at 8:53 am

Council bosses are asking the people of Brighton and Hove to help them as they struggle to save more than £100 million.

Brighton and Hove City Council is facing a funding gap of an estimated £102 million over the next five years.

Chief executive Penny Thompson said: “We have to change, to further cut costs and rise to the challenge facing all public services.”

As part of the council’s attempt to bridge the funding gap, the public are being asked a fundamental question: “If you had control over the city budget, what public services would you stop, start or change?”


The Spearhead

The “stop, start, change” challenge implicitly responds to criticism voiced by long-serving councillor Gill Mitchell, deputy leader of the opposition Labour group.
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Councillor Mitchell has repeatedly accused the Greens of “salami slicing” – shaving a bit off the budget here and there.

She has long-called for a “zero-based” approach, which means justifying every item from scratch. Or cutting it.

Council leader Jason Kitcat has been blunt about the difficulties facing his party, which was elected on a manifesto of resisting cuts in public spending.

One of the difficulties is that the law requires the council to set a budget. Another is that demand for services is rising. And the law requires the council to provide many of those services.

At the same time, the amount of money given to the council by the government is being cut. It comes to £103 million in the current 2014-15 financial year. The council’s total budget is currently £778 million.

By 2019-20, the government grant is expected to have been reduced to £39 million.

The spending gap – the difference between overall income and outgoings – is forecast to have widened from £26 million next year (2015-16) to £102 million in 2019-20.

What public services would you stop, start or change?

What would you stop, start or change? Some councils have, among other things, closed libraries.

Were Brighton and Hove City Council to close all its libraries and museums, it would save £21 million.

Perhaps the public health department could be sacrificed – even though prevention is said to be better than cure. That would save £19 million.

The same fundamental questions are being faced by other public services, including the NHS locally, the fire service and Sussex Police.

Last week at a meeting of Brighton and Hove Connected – formerly the Local Strategic Partnership – Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp was put on the spot. The divisional commander of Brighton and Hove has a budget of about £26 million – or about 10 per cent of the force total.

He said that – roughly speaking – the force had cut 20 per cent of its budget over the past four years. And over the next four years it would have to cut a similar amount.

People are one of the biggest costs, he said, adding: “That throws up some really difficult questions. We cannot top-slice any more. We have to restructure. What it will end up looking like, I don’t know. But it will affect people.”

Brighton and Hove Connected chairman Tony Mernagh said: “I still fear that people out there have no idea how much has to be saved.”

And, of course, how the millions of pounds of cuts will affect services that many hold dear – and on which many vulnerable people depend.

Council chief executive Penny Thompson said: “We can’t grow our way out of this.”

Council tax may rise, parking charges may rise and the cost of being buried or cremated may rise. But higher fees and charges, more revenue from business rates as the recovery takes hold and more council tax revenue as new housing is built won’t be enough.

Nor will a change of government solve this particular problem.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said in his speech to the Labour conference last week: “We will balance the books and make the sums add up. We will need an iron commitment to fiscal discipline. The next Labour government will get the deficit down. It will mean cuts and tough decisions.”

For more information, visit www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/bhbudget or join the conversation on Twitter @BrightonHoveCC using the hashtag #bhbudget.

  1. Rolivan Reply

    How much money does the Council hand out in Housing Benefits to Private Landlords and Housing Trusts.I would think that there must be huge savings that can be made in that Sector alone.Labour want to build 500 new Council Houses over the next 4 years if they are voted into office surely that is proof enough even though I do not know where the Funding will come from.

    • HJarrs Reply

      Housing benefit comes from government grant according to the council’s figures.

      Labour will promise the earth to get elected, despite building no council houses themselves for over 20 years. Locally, they have also rejected council tax rises for their own political ends, despite its affects on the city’s residents. They are banking on Labour government bailing them out, but we have already been told that Labour will continue to cut.

      The reality is that however is in power in the city, and whether we have pernicious Labour or Conservative governments, by 2019 we will have had to cut children’s centres, libraries, services to the elderly and disabled and deep cuts to education services. Ironically, because of transport revenue ring fencing, money may be available for cycle lanes!

    • HJarrs Reply

      Housing benefit comes from government grant according to the council’s figures.

      Labour will promise the earth to get elected, despite building no council houses themselves for over 20 years. Locally, they have also rejected council tax rises for their own political ends, despite its affects on the city’s residents. They are banking on Labour government bailing them out, but we have already been told that Labour will continue to cut.

      The reality is that however is in power in the city, and whether we have pernicious Labour or Conservative governments, by 2019 we will have had to cut children’s centres, libraries, services to the elderly and disabled and deep cuts to education services.

      Only one party is honest enough with electorate that to save services will require a council tax rise.

  2. feline1 Reply

    Just make 1 in 20 of the workforce redundant (based on how crap they are at their jobs). Staff costs down, productivity up. It’s win win!

  3. George Coombs Reply

    Yes, I aation etcatm sure Elvira has a point. Perhaps a freeze in wages of management levely council staff would also be good. AUTHENTIC listening would also reveal areas of financial waste, at one time I have offered many suggestions all of which have been carelessly ignored-it takes too long to get important things done, money must be prioritised to safeguarding the most vulnerable e.g. supplying APPROPRIATELY trained staff placing the vulnerable in safe accomodation would be good-too many people still sleep on the streets and much more could be done here I could goon……

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  5. Johanna Reply

    In answer to your question in the above article, the service I would start is collecting refuse, since this stopped at the beginning of this month.

    Don’t worry you will save £100 million from introducing all these residents parking schemes, that residents don’t want but they are a nice little earner for the Council. So keep on going, there is your answer.

  6. Julie Reply

    It’s interesting that the author of this article put libraries as the first service to be cut, S/he obviously isn’t aware that libraries are a statutory service or of the many benefits which libraries bring to the community.

    Given the extremely poor literacy levels in this country and the fact that many schools don’t have libraries (it is not compulsory for a school to have a library) where else are people on low incomes going to be able to access a wide range of free books to improve their own and their children’s reading skills? Not to mention the other benefits to be had from reading, such as finding out about other cultures and ways of life and developing empathy for others.

    All libraries have computers (free to use in B&H) and offer free one to one help for people struggling to use IT . Access to IT to find out about services and benefits, keep in touch with family and friends and help with homework, study and job hunting is essential in our modern world.

    Libraries also provide a valued free community space for people who may otherwise be isolated at home and at risk of depression, like older people, the unemployed and struggling new parents. People can visit a library for as long as they like, no questions asked. Local library staff know their customers and provide a friendly face and a welcome to people who may not be physically able to travel into town or cannot afford the bus fare.

    Libraries help to give people who are disadvantaged a leg up, enable self improvement and are one of the few places where there is a sense of community. People from all walks of life use the library service, which is a great equaliser. There is a regular supply of new titles in many formats including e-books, audio books and Large Print, free access to online resources, such as research reports. There are book groups, author events and childrens activities. Something for everyone!

  7. Nathan Wiggins Reply

    They want us to save money yet the council give millions over to The Dome (which should really run on its own feet), the i360, and other stuff that locals hardly ever visit. No wonder nobody trusts this council anymore.

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