Survival and recovery are the priorities in the council’s budget for the coming year, according to a report setting out spending plans for the coming year.
The goals are a response to the economic damage wreaked by the response to the coronavirus pandemic since last March.
Brighton and Hove City Council plans to spend £830 million across all its services including schools, housing, major projects, adult social care and public health.
The Greens are due to present their budget plans next Thursday (25 February) when they will propose a 4.99 per cent rise in council tax.
Most of the increase has been earmarked for spending on adult social care – the equivalent of a 3 per cent rise – with a 1.99 per cent rise for spending on other services.
The budget has to be approved at a meeting of the full council – known as budget council – and the changes tend to take effect from the start of April.
The budget council report was published yesterday and said: “The budget proposed for 2021-22 is … one that focuses on survival as the country and the city hopefully emerge from the pandemic.
“The budget proposals aim to maintain the financial resilience of the council while also ensuring that the council is able to support recovery and renewal across the city by underpinning support for vulnerable people and those in hardship.
“The budget also focuses on using public funds for the benefit of the local economy, investing in a cleaner more sustainable city and substantially investing in housing provision to continue to alleviate homelessness which could otherwise result in longer-term costs for the council and the city.”
Already, a cross-party committee of senior councillors has agreed changes to the original budget proposals, aimed in part at boosting tourism once the latest national lockdown is over.
The changes included funding
- more investment in the Madeira Terraces
- restoration of the seafront railings
- improvements to the A23 Patcham roundabout
- welcome signs at Brighton and Hove railway stations and on the seafront
- investment in Volk’s Railway
- a new skate park at Hove Lagoon
- lighting for Armada Beacon on Hove seafront
The budget also proposes spending £10 million towards the council’s goal of Brighton and Hove becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.
The report said: “In 2018, this council declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and, in response, the Corporate Plan therefore contains plans and objectives to respond to the emergency including the ambition of a carbon-neutral city by 2030.
“In lieu of central government funding, the budget contains proposals to support carbon reduction but recognises that these must be affordable and prudential in the context of the overall budget and resources available.
“By investing in active travel, energy efficiency and green spaces, the budget proposals support the drive for improved air quality and promotes public health by providing the means to exercise and use alternative forms of transport.
“Budget proposals also recognise the social, economic and health benefits of supporting a sustainable recovery for the city from the pandemic.
“Alongside the proposals to protect investment in community and voluntary services and invest in youth services, the budget proposals are also aiming to support young people and their futures.”
The council spends more than £2 million a day to run services in a normal year, with the bulk of the money going on schools and adult social care.
In the past year, the council faced higher costs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, notably in social care and housing rough sleepers.
But some sources of income dropped, such as business rates, although the government has also given councils millions of pounds of extra funding.
In the spring and summer last year there were fears that the pandemic could lead to a black hole of as much as £51 million in the council’s budget.
The council’s acting finance chief Nigel Manvell warned councillors at previous meetings that savings totalling £10 million would be needed so that the council could balance the books.
He also told them that the proposed 4.99 per cent increase in council tax would raise an extra £5.4 million for the council to spend, or £156 million in total.
With all these measures, he said, the council could just about end the year at “breakeven”.
The budget council meeting is due to start at 4.30pm next Thursday (25 February) and is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.
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