Jobs and services face cuts as council tackles £54m budget gap

Dozens of jobs are at risk and services face cuts as Brighton and Hove City Council tries to bridge a £54 budget gap over the next four years.

The shortfall would be about £19 million – before spending cuts and a proposed council tax rise – in the next financial year alone, according to the council’s draft budget report.

The report said that 24 full-time posts were at risk of redundancy and 38 unfilled jobs could be “deleted” as councillors and officials try to balance the books.

Senior councillors are due to debate the budget proposals at a town hall meeting on Thursday (1 December).

The council said that the budget report showed how high inflation, a weak economy, the cost-of-living crisis and real-terms government funding cuts were affecting the council’s finances.

The Chancellor’s autumn statement was expected to mean an extra £20 million in funding from the government but, the council said, costs were expected to rise by £39 million. This meant a shortfall of £19 million.

Even having earmarked savings and allowing for a 4.99 per cent council tax rise, the council was still trying to plug a £6.2 million deficit.

Services earmarked for cuts in the 2023-24 financial year, starting in April, include the Youth Arts programme for young people who have dropped out of education and training.

Scrapping the Youth Arts programme would save £48,000. It was proposed as a cut in this year’s budget but the scheme was reprieved after a campaign.

The council is also proposing to limit “expensive external residential placements” for children with disabilities – in independent and non-maintained children’s homes, special schools and boarding schools.

It also wants to seek joint funding from the NHS in this area as it seeks to save £450,000 from this the “demand-led budget”.

More public toilets may close permanently as the council looks to save £300,000 by reducing maintenance costs and utility bills – for water and electricity. The council may also look at charging for busy toilets, mainly on the seafront.

Libraries could be open for fewer staffed hours, relying on the self-service Libraries Extra scheme at other times to save £76,000. Children’s late fines could also be brought back to return at 15p a day and with a cap of £3.75.

The report, to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee, said that the government’s three-year spending review, which was supposed to increase council spending power, was not enough to deal with the joint blows of high inflation and national pay awards.

Hove Town Hall

The £11.6 million forecast overspend this year was attributed to a combination of inflation at 12.5 per cent, the local government pay award of 6.3 per cent plus increased demands on adult and children’s social care and temporary and emergency housing.

The local government pay award added £3.3 million to the council’s spending bill this year. High fuel bills have also affected many council services.

The report said: “While the authority has seen very large shortfalls of circa £20 million before, during periods when government grants reduced substantially under austerity and deficit reduction policies, the context was very different with low inflation, low interest rates and a growing economy locally, nationally and globally.

“In the current context of high inflation, increasing interest rates, increasing service demands driven by the cost of living, and a weakened economy, managing a large budget shortfall of nearly £19 million presents a serious and unprecedented challenge which, together with substantial in-year pressures … will be a severe test of the authority’s financial resilience and sustainability.”

As well as funding services, the council needs to pay back nearly £6 million into its reserves over 10 years after the money was used to “financially smooth” the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Income from the council’s commercial property portfolio was also affected by the pandemic because it was “geared towards retail” and had suffered from changes in shopping habits.

The report assumed that council tax bills would go up by 4.99 per cent, including a 2 per cent rise to go towards the cost of adult social care.

Fees and charges were also expected to go up, with most of the details due to be decided in principle at council committee meetings in January.

The council must set its budget and council tax by Saturday 11 March. The budget council meeting is expected to take place on Thursday 23 February.

The council’s Policy and Resources Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 4pm on Thursday (1 December). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Nick Reply

    Shopping in town today. Wanted the toilet, but council has closed central ones. So went home early. Spent less. Will now order missing items on the internet

    That’s local jobs at risk and, eventually, lower business rates for the council

    For £300,000 a year this isn’t sensible. That’s a tiny amount in the council budget but the knock-on effect on business and tourist revenue is huge

    The council had outsourced toilet cleaning – but said it wasn’t good enough. Brought in-house and now it’s far worse. Most toilets are now closed rather than being open and sometimes dirty. This was a political decision – and the greens need to be called out on this failure

    We need basic services from the council. The council tax bill I pay is huge (even with energy bill increases, still larger than gas/electricity and mobile combined). So why can’t we have bins emptied, public toilets which are open, pavements without weeds etc? Other councils manage it

  2. Mike Beasley Reply

    How much have the Council/The Greens spaffed away on their vanity projects?
    Still, the taxpayer has got all that money rolling in from the i360. Happy days!

  3. Chris Reply

    Yes – we pay a lot and get little that is practical in return. Greens= high tax low Service

    • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

      Greens = higher and higher tax, total incompetence and no service at all.

  4. Billy Short Reply

    It must be weird to work for the council right now, and to see your job now under threat because of poor spending decisions, and to be in a ringside seat to watch idealist councillors chasing rainbows.

    The fact that these councillors were elected to run local services, and yet pursue their own ideological agenda must be so depressing – as it is for us residents.

    All that wasted money on supposedly ‘green’ schemes – that actually achieve nothing in terms of mitigating Climate Change or in reducing our local carbon footprint.
    The reality is that public transport has been slowed down, average journey times have been increased, and out-of-town visitors don’t feel welcome anymore. Locals certainly can’t get to the hospital in a hurry – or to work. And if your job is in the nighttime economy, that Brighton was once famous for, try getting home after work.

    In the meantime, we residents seem to be paying higher and higher fees for huge reductions in local services, be that cleaning or basic maintenance, or for rubbish collection and recycling. The streets are not weeded and even the public toilets are now closed.

    The Carbon Neutral fund has been the biggest misuse of limited council funds at a time when Tory cuts have taken their toll. The longterm goal of Brighton being ‘car free’ is so stupid – at a time when no alternative public travel is being installed and where park and ride schemes are always scuppered by the Greens – and this is exactly as the council’s own Climate Change Forum warned.
    That Carbon Neutral fund accounts for most of the current council debt, and has achieved nothing in terms of its stated goals.

    On the other hand, if you wear lycra cycling shorts when applying for a council loan or when suggesting a scheme, you’ll get in, because apparently that’s how funding works nowadays. This is the fake green bubble right now. The word ‘biodiversity’ works as a buzzword when claiming misplaced budgets. I’d also recommend using the word ‘sustainable’ – even when your plan is clearly not.

    It’s not that we don’t care about climate change – it’s that our council wasting money on their pet schemes is actually no help to the local, national or world wide greenhouse gas problem.

    I also note that we have loads more staff working for the council PR department than we have people on the streets, cleaning gutters and sweeping up leaves. So our drains are blocked, but instead we have plastic signs all along our seafront – or placed high up on lampposts in Portland road where they can’t actually be seen.
    It’s like a fascist or communist propaganda department, endlessly on message and claiming that black is in fact white.

    And while we residents wonder when Hove Town Hall customer services desk will re-open, we might also wonder if the Town Hall toilets will remain open in 2023 – or whether all the staff working from home will be given a toilet paper allowance to match their gender neutral name tags.
    In my own line of work I would welcome a gender neutral name tag, and a toilet paper allowance, or indeed a pension scheme, but my priority right now is to earn enough to pay the household electricity bill while, hopefully, putting food on the table.
    Which self contained bubble do you live in right now – hopefully not the same one as our council?

    This is, admittedly, a world gone mad – where the intentions may be good, but where limited expenditure is totally misdirected when we locals need basic services. The expenditure priorities with this council are all wrong and, it’s now at the end of the year where we see what a mess they have made – they are like students whose agreed loan has run out six months before the end of term because they drank too much beer.

    And who might we vote for at the next election? Certainly not the Greens who have proved themselves to be financially incompetent for a second time. But Labour also seem to be run locally by complete dumbwits who lost control of the council they were elected to run, and who still don’t get the bigger picture.
    And then the Torys are the ones who have tanked the economy in the first place. Do we need more independent councillors?

    Let’s hope that some of them come to their senses soon.
    We have had great local councils here in Brighton in the past. But this is not one of them,.

    • Tom Houlbrook Reply

      This is a really great post/comment Billy – I agree with your sentiments entirely.

  5. Yibble Reply

    Independent councillors are the way forward as the traditional trinary is a busted flush. Phelim and his ship of amateur fools along with the other parties in Brighton and Hove are just too busy trying to imitate Westminster politics. They need to concentrate on the basics rather than polishing their future job prospects and hissing your money on vanity projects.

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