This month we begin the process of deciding what services the city council can provide to you, how they are paid for and what your council tax bill will be for 2017-18.
The process will end with Budget Council in February and here are some facts you need to know before we start.
The council spends around £760 million a year on hundreds of hugely different services from street cleaning to schools, libraries to homelessness and street lighting to licensing bars and restaurants. The biggest part of our budget is social care, at around £163 million.
In this budget we will have to address a predicted budget gap of £18 million through savings, following a similar level of savings already being implemented this year.
This is because the government is substantially reducing the Revenue Support Grant to councils by 2020 and because we have to meet growing costs and demands, primarily across adults and children’s social care services.
The reduction in grant funding alone is around £27 million by 2020. Our overall funding has reduced by around £45 million over the last five years which, added to increasing costs and demands, has resulted in the very large annual savings we have and will continue to have to make.
As the government grant support reduces so will the funding available for schemes such as free bus passes for older people and people with disabilities.
All the surplus income we receive from parking charges, around £12.7 million, goes toward funding this and other essential transport services.
Similarly, we are also having to put another £1.5 million into support for people who can’t afford to pay all of their council tax, which used to be fully funded by government grant.
The government is now also looking at councils taking financial responsibility for some NHS services.
Looking after older people, children in care and people with disabilities is already the largest part of our budget. Early estimates show that next year it will cost us at least £10 million more.
The government will again, through councils, allow 2 per cent to be added to your council tax bill to pay for this but that will only raise around £2.4 million, not enough to keep up.
Your council tax used to make up around a third of what we spend on General Fund services, with another third made up from fees and charges and the remaining third from business rates and government grant.
To become more self-financing, the government wants us to increase income from fees and charges, which includes things like registering births, pest control and planning applications.
There are also uncertainties regarding business rates. The government currently retains half of our local business rates, around £54 million, will be revaluing business rates next year and is providing a full rebate to small businesses.
We don’t know how much we will receive from business rates by 2020 so we need to ensure more businesses come to the city and all pay their fair share.
As more students come to the city, fewer households pay council tax. This is again determined by government and, while being a university city is part of our identity and is also important for local businesses, there’s no ignoring the financial impact of providing services to non-council tax paying households.
Landlords who let properties to students are also protected from business rates by the government.
Any new homes, such as those at the Marina, do pay full council tax.
Earlier this year we ran our City Innovation Challenge to find out if you, schools and businesses had your own ideas to help out as our budgets shrink.
Many said we should look to volunteering, and we have recently agreed a new volunteering policy.
Meanwhile, we are changing how we deliver services, with much more online and more focus on joined up services in your neighbourhoods, designed by you around what works in your community.
We are investing in bins that need emptying less so save money, in more efficient council buildings like the revamped Hove Town Hall, more partnership working with other agencies and of course new ways to raise money by selling services like garden waste collection.
All this means you may be paying more for less but we will make every effort to focus the money we have on getting the basics right, delivering the best possible services to you, and doing the right thing by those in our city who need help.
It is a huge and very difficult task but we are up for the challenge if you are.
Councillor Warren Morgan is the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.
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