The Cabinet is delaying setting the budget for 2021/22 from this coming Monday to Monday 8 March.
A key document was missing from the agenda for 1 March and is not yet loaded up for 8 March is the report on the outcome of the public consultation on the Council’s ‘savings’ proposals.
The Council website states that the main ‘report will be updated once the Council has received a decision from the Secretary of State on its request for a capitalisation directive and the updated report will also include further consultation responses.’
Stuart King, the Deputy Leader tells me that the Cabinet members have seen the results of the consultation.
In my view the consultation should be published as a report in its own right and proposed revised report should include discussion of how the public’s views have been taken into account. Anything less will undermine the Leader’s commitment to openness, transparency, engagement and listening, and undermine people’s attitudes to future consultations.
Obscurity Of Detail
Comprising ‘savings’ and growth, the documents are very technical and difficult for lay people to understand. Indeed it can be argued that most Councillors will not understand them. The main reason for this is the lack of any detailed explanation as to what the ‘savings’ or the growth items entail. It can also be argued that many of the savings and growth items are actually changes in income, that they should be stripped out and presented as such. This should be counterbalanced by an estimate of expenditure before savings and growth, so that both of these can be better understood.
The Cabinet’s aim is to create a balanced budget to be underpinned by the hoped capitalisation loan permission from the Government.
An Appendix provides a grid of both ‘savings’ and ‘growth’ items for each of the financial years 2021/2 to 2023/24 and the total across the three years.
Children, Families and Education
Total 3 years savings: £16.423m; growth £205.95m. The majority will be in 2021/2: £9.433m and £20.433m.
The ‘savings’ include reconfiguration of Early Hep and Adolescent Services, children with disabilities care packages; reviews of support for young people where appeal rights exhausted, and the children’s centre’s delivery model. Very small amounts will be cut by reducing non-statutory education functions, the early learning collaboration contract and Croydon Music and Arts. The Family Group Conference Service will be ended.
Growth mainly relates to children looked after placements, leaving care and children with disabilities.
Health, Wellbeing, Adults
The three year ‘savings’ total £37.743m and growth £43.049m.
‘Savings’ effect welfare rights, disabilities, mental health services and discretionary support older people.
About half the growth is in what is termed ‘to fund current Activity/Run Rate’, plus growth in care packages.
The three years ‘savings’ are £23.650m of which £12,759m will be in 2021/2. Growth is £11.902m of which £10.102m is in 2021/2.
The ‘savings’ include provision for the proposed closure of library buildings of £395,000, which will be dependent on the on-going libraries consultation. Interestingly £9,000 is allocated to 2021/22 and £404,000 to 2022/23, making a total of £413,000. In addition South Norwood Library closure is listed as £100,000 in 2022/23.
Most ‘savings’ are small e.g. merger of parks and open spaces £449,000 including the loss of two staff posts. Despite the Local Plan Review the Spatial Planning and Place Making teams will be cut by £484,000. Specialist nursery transport is to be cut completely. £11.606m will be ‘saved’ from the costs of camera enforcement.
Cuts will also be made to: night time noise reduction service, anti-social behaviour team, and the violence reduction unit.
Growth includes £2.400m on highways maintenance, £6,295 on what is called Investment Property Income Decline, and £1.247m in ‘Landlords Rent Growth’.
Savings will total £7.952m with £4.982 in 2021/22. They include very small sums like the VSC small grants (£100,000), communities team reduction, community safety fund reduction, stopping Your Croydon publication (£50,000), reduction in communications team (£218,000), reduction to Digital Services, reduction in learning and organisational development services (£135,000 – Year 3).
Growth will be £12 m over the three years with £13.585m in 2021/2 followed by cuts the following two.
Savings will total £27.161m. These seem mainly to be related to grants, fees and charges, business rates, Council Tax Income Guarantee, and Council Tax changes. It can be argued that these are not savings, but changes in income.
Growth is £90.891m of which £59.192m is in 2021/22. It includes pay inflation (10.508m), contract inflation (£18.997m), New Homes Bonus (£7,329m), contingency provision (£13m), asylum seekers budget correction (£2.137m). Receipt of interest from Brick by Brick loans are estimated as £11.5m and dividend payments £5.2m. There are also other changes in what appears to be income.
Staffing Posts Being Lost
No staff posts are being lost from children, families and education; 12 from Health, Wellbeing Adults, balanced by an increase in 7. Place loses 3.9. Resources loses 18.6, balanced by 17 growth posts. The total cut in posts across the whole Council is 2.7.
The Myth Of Development
The Council continually says that important sources of money are Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy on planning approvals. The amount actually received or estimated is peanuts. The total capital resources available to the Council in 2019/20 was £231.8m, of which S106 was £600,000 and CIL £6.5m. The forecast for this financial year is £187.4m of which S106 £5m and CIL £8.6m. The estimate for 2021/2 is £90m (£800,000 & £6.8m). The total then reduces to £49.4m in 2022/23 (nil & £6.8m) and £39.6m in 2023/24 with no S106 and CIL £6.8m in each year.
The estimated borrowing debt at 31 March is £1,466.501m, of which £907.426m is from the Public Works Loan Board, and £428.5m from other local authorities.
The Cabinet is being asked to approve a Corporate Cleaning and Security contract for 6 years’ worth £19,084,622.
It is also being informed that under delegated decision making a contract for Young People Semi-Independent Accommodation worth £89,540,000 for ten years.
There are several contract extensions, including:
- FM Building Maintenance for 12 months’ worth £2.5m.
- FM Mechanical and Electrical for 12 months’ worth £5.
- Housing Responsive Repairs for 48 months’ worth £43.692m.
Note: The papers for both meetings can be accessed at