The scene for the cuts the Council will be making to its spending from 1 April is being set by the Leader and key Cabinet meetings in their written reports to the Council on Monday 7 December. He will present the budget options and priorities at the Scrutiny & Overview Committee on 15 December.
Leader Tony Newman says:
‘Despite the challenging road ahead, and the continuation of extreme budget cuts from Government, our Cabinet remains committed to lobby for fairer funding for Croydon. As a result of the cuts, we are seeing high pressures on our services, and I recognise as the Leader that this is burdening our most vulnerable families. However, as an administration we have consistently campaigned to secure the best outcomes for Croydon residents, whilst recognising the importance of also making Croydon a better place for people to work and live.’
‘In light of recent and continuous cuts, the Council’s commissioning strategy aims for effective outcome based commissioning and prudent financial transactions to contribute to all corporate priorities. The report clearly stated that the Council continues to develop more diverse service delivery models, and will ensure that contractual and partnership relationships are not only aligned to our corporate priorities but also represent value for money for residents and taxpayers, contributing to the growth agenda for Croydon, and will ensure local companies have a greater opportunity to bid for, and access, contracts with the Council. This Cabinet continues to seek and create opportunities to save money, whilst still ensuring that Croydon residents are at the heart of our decisions. In ensuring that Croydon does not suffer from the serious financial hit from National Government, which is one of the reasons we have lobbied government to get a fair settlement for Croydon, and specifically on issues like the 4 million loss for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, to see this funding restored. On this issue I will endeavour to keep all colleagues fully updated.’
Chancellor’s Autumn Statement
Finance Cabinet Member Simon Hall says explains the effect of the Chancellor’s Autumn Financial Statement, Spending Review and Government Actions.
‘The Government has continued its onslaught on local government generally and Croydon specifically. Even before the 25 November announcements, in the last few months, we have seen:
- Unilateral cut to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children funding – in excess of £4m (in addition to failure to fund No Recourse to Public Funds of c. £5m.
- In-year cut in Public Health Grant –c.£1.3m. – In-year cut to CALAT funding – c. £0.8m.
- Announcement on benefit cap reduction, affecting some 1,000 families in the borough – Welfare changes which will affect thousands of families, notably working families on low income
- Continued failure to fund major population growth and demographic change
- Continued failure to correct imbalance on Local Housing Allowance rates
- Continued failure to fund other public services in the borough (notably Health) properly, leading to pressures on council services.
- Legislation on affordable housing that have huge implications.
The Autumn Financial Statement and details of the Spending Review were published on 25 November. As ever, the real implications of these will only become clear over time, as so much is buried/ hidden.’
‘What is already clear:
- Local Government is seeing a 56% reduction in its funding from Central Government over the next four years
- Welfare reform that will impact thousands of working families are still taking place but being phased.
- No change, at this stage, in the totally inequitable funding formula, leading to the prospect of continuing massive underfunding of Croydon’s population and needs.
- No concrete enactment of the growth promise committed to previously.
- Huge implications of the changes regarding housing and housing benefit.
This administration has been lobbying at all levels and will continue to do so. The administration will continue to enact its ambitious plans for Croydon, notwithstanding this onslaught from Central Government.’
2016/2017 Council Budget
Hall also says that:
‘Good progress is being made in formulating the budget for the next financial year and, in accordance with our stated approach, looking at the medium term as well as the specific year. It is clear that there will be tough choices to be made. These tough choices and where we spend the Council’s resources will reflect the ambitions. At the Scrutiny & Overview Committee on 15 December, we will be presenting budget options and priorities.’
Aspects of the budget will also be discussed by the General Purposes & Audit Committee on 9 December when it receives verbal report on ‘Demand Led Budget Pressures in People Department’ by the Executive Director – People.
Hall also reports:
‘In November, the Council launched a Council-wide voluntary severance scheme. This gives all eligible staff the opportunity to consider whether they wish to leave the Council. The process has started and staff have until 4 January to put themselves forward. These requests will then be considered. We have been clear, as an administration, that when considering the requests, directors must consider all the service implications, be sure that remaining staff will not have an excessive burden and be confident that this will not lead to re-recruitment or agency staff being brought in. As part of this, we have said that the usual departure date would be 29 February 2016, but it could be a later date (up to 31 March 2017), where it was agreed that this could make sense in terms of the individual’s wishes and the needs of the business. There are many local authorities who have recently offered such a scheme, are offering one at the moment or are likely to do so in the near future.’
One way to try and increase income is to increase parking charges. Kathy Bee’s report explains the planned rationalisation of parking charges.
‘There has been a review of parking charges across the borough. Currently there are over 40 different tariffs and many of these are historic and difficult to explain the reasoning behind them. For this reason, we have taken the opportunity to review these to introduce a more consistent approach looking at a linear pricing model. With a fair approach across the whole borough some charges will go down and some will increase as we introduce a new simplified charging system. The new charges will be made public prior to Christmas 2015 and are due to be introduced from 1 February 2016.’
Only time will tell whether the new charges will be set to ensure an increase in income.
The full reports can be seen at file:///C:/Users/Sean/Downloads/COU20151207_11_02_Bulletins.pdf