Council faces own cost of living crisis with £11m spending deficit forecast

The council is on track to overspend its budget by £11.6 million in the current financial year, according to a newly published forecast.

This amounts to more than 5 per cent of the “general fund revenue budget” – which was set at £200 million for the 2022-23 financial year from last April to the end of next March.

The reasons include more children in complex care placements, a drop in parking income and a failure to make the savings that were approved when councillors set the budget in February.

Brighton and Hove City Council voted through savings totalling £10.5 million for 2022-23 but a report to councillors said that £5.4 million of those proposed savings were “at risk”.

Rising costs were blamed for almost £4 million of the savings shortfall, according to the report, while savings of just over £5 million had been achieved.

The report to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee said that the projected overspend was “significant” after cuts totalling £10.5 million last year and 11 years of “savings packages” totalling more than £185 million.

When councillors discussed the state of the finances last month, officials announced a recruitment freeze.

At the meeting in October, councillors agreed to look more closely at spending cuts and possibly putting up fees and charges while pausing some projects which were under way or planned.

The latest report said: “There are also impacts relating to the cost of living situation and economic conditions which are currently suppressing key income sources such as planning fees, parking permits and commercial rents as well as continuing to drive higher council tax reduction claimant numbers and homelessness.

“The forecast presents a serious financial risk and, if not managed significantly, will severely impact the level of the council’s reserves and balances which would need to be utilised to fund any overspend.”

The figures for the first seven months of this financial year – to the end of October – are better than those to the end of August. The previous forecast was an overspend of more than £13 million.

But parking charges and permits have not brought in as much money as expected this year, with permit income falling short by almost £700,000 as fewer people paid up when prices rose.

At the same time, the income from parking charges is falling short by more than £600,000, some of which reflects a loss of parking spaces as a result of “active travel” schemes.

The report to the Policy and Resources Committee projected a year-end revenue shortfall of more than £3.2 million for permits and on-street and off-street parking charges.

At Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service, the cost of agency staff helped fuel an “overspend of £558,000 … due to vacancies across the service”.

The report said: “Recruitment into vacant posts and managing of attendance should start to see these high agency costs reduce during the year.”

The stink over the closure of public toilets also re-emerged, with the report setting out an overspend of £137,000 “due to greater than budgeted utility costs, consumables and staffing required to maintain cleaning levels”.

In children’s services, home to school transport is forecast to overspend by more than £1.2 million while the projected overspend for children’s placement is more than £1.5 million.

The report said: “There are significant overspends in residential home and semi-Independent placements due to increasing difficulty in finding suitable foster carers.”

The number of children in care has risen 9 per cent since 2020 – and more children in care have more complex needs, resulting in expensive placements costing an average of almost £13,500 a week.

The report said: “The post-pandemic period has seen children with increasingly complex needs as well as problems in foster care recruitment causing an acute sufficiency issue, making placing children in families either in-house or with external providers is very difficult.

“This has inevitably led to increasing numbers of children placed in residential homes or costly semi-independent placements.”

A special school, Homewood College, is due to become an academy and the council will have to meet the cost of the school’s budget deficit, expected to be about £250,000.

And the council’s “Housing Revenue Account” – funded from tenants’ rents – is also forecast to be overspent by more than £1 million.

The financial outlook and measures to improve it are expected to be discussed by the council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday (1 December).

The committee is due to meet at 4pm at Hove Town Hall – and the meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Mike Beasley Reply

    As long as we can keep spending money on cycle lanes, hangars, bike hire schemes and other transport measures to punish the motorist and strangle commerce in the city, it will be a result for common sense!

  2. Peter Challis Reply

    Let me see – deficit of £11.1m

    Annual cost of “Carbon Neutral Fund” – £10m

    Cycle Hangars – £1m

    Council communications team of 26 heads posting pro-council propaganda and twice the size of similar authorities – £?m

    Problem solved!

    • Silas Reply

      Welcome to the BHCC/ Green spaff fest!

    • Chris Reply

      Also “a drop in parking income” – ho ho ho. Word is spreading that we don’t like visitors with cars.

      Similar to the weeding, action taken with no plan to cater for need.

      As the pavements and kerbs are being damaged now by the weeds, where will the cash come from to effect repairs ?

      • Peter Challis Reply

        They’ll just blame the government as usual for reducing the amount they get given and then put up council tax by 5% in April.

        • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

          Oh, but Mac Cafferty has only recently said (before the Government decided on this 5% hike without a referendum policy, obviously having no inkling of the incompetent and profligate councils that some of us have been lumbered with by default) that his ‘administration’ would not be seeking a referendum for a rise above 2.99% because he recognised the cost of living etc pressures on residents. Surely you’re not suggesting that he would backtrack on his word (!) Still, to look at it another way, a 5% hike come April can only hasten the end of the Greens in May. That might be worth paying for.

          • Lord green crybaby

            lol always the same greens always moaning about the government cuts yet other towns manage do you see weeds trash and graffiti when you go elsewhere

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    Of the irony a fall in parking permits and parking charges of over £1 million and this is only going to get worse as the seafront cycle lane is extended, Gardner Street is closed and the Madeira Terrace cycle lane is installed. It’s good to have active travel schemes but we need to admit and understand they will severely impact upon council generated revenue year on year.

    • Donna P Reply

      Yes – remember the glorious (but loss making) Bikeshare scheme has had to be ‘paused’ because someone decided it was ok to operate it on 3G. And has BHCC got a sponsor for the replacement scheme yet?

  4. Billy Short Reply

    It is very odd reading this news report, and getting the feeling it’s based on the limited information the council wants us to know, or on their side of the story – rather than on a bigger picture, admitting where they have also made mistakes, or misguidedly wasted our money.

    This news story is then backed up by an opinion piece on this site from one of our delusional councillors.
    Like the council leader, she comes up with the same hollow picture. Apparently, the economic woes at the council are all ‘someone else’s fault’.
    It’s either increased costs, or it’s Tory government cuts, or else it’s that opposing councillors didn’t support what the ruling Green party wanted to do. Is anyone actually in charge of basics here?

    I don’t doubt the government cuts, or the recession brought on by Brexit and the war in Ukraine. And I certainly don’t doubt climate change issues. I’m just worried about the current local spin and the lies when it comes to council expenditure. For example, no-one has mentioned the repercussions of the i360 debt, or how increased interest rates affect our local borrowing costs and ability to spend.

    Maybe I live in my own bubble, just like our councillors seem to do. But my personal experience as a resident seems to be a bit different from theirs.

    In my road, where I now live in Hove, we are lucky to get our bins emptied and we have no recycling collected but, despite the council, we try and act to adjust to increasingly hard times. In the summer that meant we had to weed our own pavements.
    But it’s now winter. In our house we haven’t put on the heating this evening, being fearful of the energy charges. I’ve put in extra double glazing but that doesn’t seem to have helped much in our old Victorian building.

    I’m just trying to save money at a time when there is none to spare and, unlike the council, I weigh up essentials I might afford with the extras I can’t.
    There will be no pub visit for me this week. I don’t buy new trainers or get a haircut before there is food on the table. That food is now bought at the cheaper places (Lidl), and today’s Sunday roast was good, but will be kept going for several days into the new week, eventually rehashed as a curry or as soup.
    My biggest outgoing this last week was to renew my council parking permit, for the van I need for work, and that took over half of what I earned! I’m finding the chunkier household bills grow and grow, despite me not earning any more income to pay for them.

    The council maybe need to learn that in hard times we cut back on the ‘wish list’ first. In my case, I haven’t had a holiday for three years and, actually, I have not even left the Brighton and Hove borders in the last year. Train tickets are too expensive to consider and I can only afford to put diesel in my van for my local work, so there were no weekends away this year. I have not seen most members of my family in two years. It’s also wrong, that road travel is cheaper in a car than it is on public transport. I note too that the local bus services have been slashed these past three years, especially for the evening timetables.

    As a self employed person during the Covid years, I also got no government help, and so I clocked up a credit card debt without choice. I can’t help but wonder if those who got furlough payments developed a weird sense of cloudcuckooland.

    So excuse me if I laugh at what we are being told here, about the continuing council budget woes.
    As a regular cyclist, I laughed at the city’s duplicated cycle lanes, the new bike hangers, and now the failed bike share scheme. Then I wondered at the new ridges in the beach shingle in Kemp Town – with plants seeded at great expense but which were never watered. Indeed I groaned at the mess they have made of Madeira Drive, with a green cycle motorway in the wrong green colour. And then I wept about the lack of maintenance of all the seafront railings and heritage seating, the destroyed seafront lamps, and about our unkept parks and gardens.

    Even now, I hear that they will dig a second dew pond on a ridge of the Downs at a cost of £25,000 – at a time when my road has not been swept in two years, and where our drains are blocked with unswept fallen leaves so we have flooding at the lower end of our road. You have to wonder where council priorities lie.

    I also feel some anger that the LTN scheme is still going ahead in Hanover, where I lived for 30 years, knowing it’s about as fake green as you get, increasing local journey times and adding to air pollution whilst offering zero benefits, green or otherwise.
    They waste our money and then tell us each new scheme comes from another ring-fenced fund. What utter bullshit.

    How did our basic services get so bad? How did the council lose sight of what they are actually in charge for – namely, in delivering residential services for us locals.

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