Council job losses and nearly five percent more council tax proposed

By Barrie Hudson - 25 January 2023

Community

Job losses and the maximum permitted council tax increase will be among measures discussed at Swindon Borough Council Cabinet meeting next week.

The measures are part of the authority's bid to close a £40m budget gap caused by surging inflation and rising service costs.

The council's proposed overall budget for the 2023-24 financial year is £166.4m, of which approximately 80 per cent has been allocated for children’s and adults’ social care.

Day-to-day services account for the remaining 20 percent, including extending the food waste service to all 100,000 households served by the council later this year.

Other proposals include a £600,000 saving by dimming or turning off certain street lamps at night, and reintroducing pay and display car parking charges on Sundays. 

Cllr Keith Williams, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Finance and Commercialisation, said: “This is without doubt the most challenging financial position we have faced as a council due to the record levels of inflation and the impact that has on all the services we deliver to local residents.

“We are all experiencing the impact inflation is having on our own personal budgets, especially for essential utilities like gas and electricity. 

"For the council, these inflationary pressures have added a staggering £22m to our costs for next year. This is unprecedented and equates to 13 per cent of the Council’s entire net budget for the next 12 months."

It is proposed to increase council tax by 4.99 per cent, with two percent supporting adult social care and the remainder for general council services.

A 4.99 per cent increase - the maximum allowed without a public vote - would increase the average council tax bill by £6.39 per month, excluding precepts from other bodies such as parish councils and the police and fire authorities.

The council says significant savings have been identified through reviewing the cost of adults and children’s social care packages and reducing the placement costs of children who come under the care of the local authority.

In addition, under the budget proposals approximately 100 full-time equivalent posts will be removed from the council's structure, of which half are currently vacant. 

Pending full council approval of the budget next month, any changes would be subject to a 30-day consultation process.

Of the proposed £166.4m budget, more than £130m would be earmarked for services to support vulnerable children and adults.

Funding has also been allocated for maintaining roads, education services, cultural facilities, libraries and country parks. 

Cllr Williams added: “The bulk of our budget is spent on looking after and protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities, while also maintaining the services that local residents and businesses expect from the Council.

“However, these rises in our costs mean we have to take some difficult decisions when prioritising essential services in order to deliver a balanced budget, as we are required to by law. This will mean increasing council tax and also making some changes to the way we do things.

“We have to find savings of £26m next year, which is the single biggest saving we’ve ever had to make in one financial year and Cabinet colleagues will be asked to make some tough choices next week to help us reach that target.”

Following next week’s Cabinet meeting, the budget proposals will be scrutinised by the council’s Scrutiny Committee on Monday, 6 February before going before all councillors at the Full Council meeting on Thursday, 16 February.

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