6-8 per cent cuts to council services in 2022 to avoid £2m loss
- Credit: SADC
Sweeping cuts to council services will take place across the board next year in a bid to balance the budget.
The budget gap for 2022/23 – the difference between income and expenditure – is estimated at a £2 million loss unless drastic action is taken.
The four committees overseeing the council’s services have now been told to find savings in the range of 6 to 8 per cent of their current budgets by the beginning of next year.
This will affect planning, waste and recycling, leisure, parks, the museums, social housing and construction projects.
The committees have also been instructed to highlight any new projects, such as the creation of a new Local Plan and building developments, and show how these will be financed.
Council leader Cllr Chris White said: “We have battled very hard to maintain services and deliver our priority projects, such as tackling climate change, during the pandemic.
“We will continue to do that, but it is evident that in common with other local authorities we face significant financial challenges in the year ahead. These are principally due to the loss of income from leisure facilities and off-street parking, for which they council has not been fully compensated by central government funding.
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“We have a statutory duty to balance the budget which means we now have no other option, with our income having fallen, to look for savings across the full range of council services.
“This is not something we want to do, but it has been forced upon us by current economic conditions.”
SADC received a one-off Government grant of £4 million to help it overcome the cost of the pandemic and overspent by £136,000 in 2020/21.
In setting the budget for this financial year 2021/22, it was agreed to use £900,000 of reserves to reduce losses. There is a projected overspend of £400,000 with around £1 million left in the main reserve fund.
The Tories said they refused to support this budgetary approach as the officers they were asking to support it were set to be made redundant soon, and especially as the Lib Dems refused their offer to work collaboratively and cooperatively on the budget.
Conservative group leader Cllr Mary Maynard said: "The across-the-board approach of cuts means your strategic projects and the services that residents value most will be cut, alongside projects and services that matter less.
"You are pitting service group against service group and it will be those who are most politically astute who will defend themselves from being cut, not necessarily the services and projects that should be protected.
"This approach will further destabilise an already destabilised and from all accounts unhappy workforce. In an organisation of this nature, which is essentially composed of people plus some outsourced contracts, cuts of 6-8% can usually only be achieved in the short term by much larger cuts in staff numbers.
"You are decimating the workforce. Swinging headcount cuts is not a highly motivating or welcome message to staff. We have had no information on what has been happening in terms of resignations, leavers and empty positions for some time. We have no idea how our staff have been managed through this very difficult time."
She added afterwards: "The Lib Dems are now hearing the sound of chickens coming home to roost. They came in handing out flowers but are now handing out P45s. The big gap in the budget is their inability to recognise that our commercial projects were designed not only to deliver regeneration but also to be revenue generating opportunities to support the budget.
"For example, there is a budget ‘gap’ of £1m next year because they turned the City Centre Opportunity Site South into a vanity project and changed the design (at huge cost), thus reducing the commercial value of the project and delaying it. It should have been finished by now, with flats being sold and rented out."