My job is to keep the services you need from your local council going. Fundamentally that is the purpose of the council budget proposals that we publish this time each year. Everyone knows it’s getting harder to do that.
The money we get from Government continues to go down, as they will have cut £100 million from our baseline funding between 2011 and 2020. The costs of providing essential social care services to older people, people with long-term health conditions, children in care and others continues to rise well beyond inflation.
When we took over the council in 2015, we put in place a four-year plan to deal with this worsening financial situation. We are making the best use of our assets, investing in better customer services, reducing the back office to save money, making big savings in management costs, and innovating in new ways of delivering services. Our plan is working. Although we have had to reduce our staffing levels, we have managed this largely through voluntary severance and natural turnover, and have a very good track record of re-deploying staff as well.
We’ve kept our libraries and children’s centres open as valuable community hubs, and invested millions in new street lighting, bins and other measures to improve your local environment and cut our longer-term costs.
Council tax is going up. No-one wants that to happen as it hits those on lower incomes disproportionately. However the Government’s only response to rising care costs has been to allow bigger council tax increases. If we didn’t increase council tax by the maximum allowed, then we’d need to make another £6 million in cuts on top of the £13 million we already have to make to balance the budget.
With no real help from the Government in their Budget this week, no sign of us being able to keep the £50 million in business rates they take from us each year as they promised, and £9 million of extra financial responsibility that has been passed to us in recent years, our financial situation is not sustainable in the longer term. We are not alone in that; it is common across councils up and down the country. Local government will reach breaking point soon. We are managing resources well and protecting the services you need. Thank you for helping us help those who need it most. We will make every penny you pay in council tax count.
Cllr Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council