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How council cuts will hurt in Brighton and Hove
Council cuts of more than £20 million will result in about 160 posts being scrapped at Brighton and Hove City Council in the next financial year.
The budget proposal for the next financial year was presented earlier this week ahead of three months of debate about what course the city should take.
The Green-minority administration feels its plans will support essential services while continuing to invest in the city.
But opposition councillors are already making calls that more innovative work can be done to prevent the “salami slicing” of individual department budgets as Government cuts hit.
Those in power will point to the fact that no children’s centres will close, all branch libraries will remain open and support for those needing help with council tax payments will be preserved.
Yet the publication of the first draft includes some blows to groups around the city with Pride, sports clubs and the music service among those that could be affected.
This was after the amount of money the local authority had to find rose from about £16 million in August to about £24 million a few weeks ago.
The exact figure will not be known until later next month.
Mark Turner, of GMB union, said: “It’s very difficult as there’s now an additional £8 million to be found.
“There is a voluntary redundancy pool. But if all the job losses are not reached under this and there are compulsory redundancies then we will challenge these in the usual robust way.
“It’s clear that central Government is trying to do away with local government. It’s making things harder and harder.”
Hundreds of people campaigned to save the funding for Brighton and Hove Music Service last year, which is used by 2,500 youngsters every week.
More than 1,800 signatures were collected on a petition when the city council threatened to reduce its subsidy.
A year on, and it is déjà vu.
The Government’s grant to support music is being reduced by £69,000.
On top of this the local authority will reduce its funding by a further £53,000 – about a tenth of allocation.
If approved, it will mean a reduction in access to music services by youngsters while fees could also rise.
But the council said it will look at ways to create more income from the popular service.
Not all the savings are for six-figure sums.
Among the more controversial could be the scrapping of an £8,000 subsidy to cricket
Nigel Thomas, chairman of Palmers Cricket Club, which is based at Hove Recreation Ground in Shirley Drive, said: “It’s very difficult for clubs at the moment as the wet summer meant we lost a lot of money in match fees.
“We look after our own wicket and it takes up a lot of resources. Not all the clubs, particularly recreational ones, will be able to have the time to do this.
“Personally I think the council should be investing in sport.
“Obviously it does not have banks of money
but it really should not be cutting down as it’s really important for people particularly young people.”
Among the more controversial plans is to remove the annual grant to Pride.
However council bosses have made it clear that a one-off £25,000 grant will remain to support the annual celebration of the LGBT community for 2013/14.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “In its current form, we’re not sure it needs it.”
But James Ledward, editor of Gscene magazine and LGBT community activist, said: “It shows a lack of understanding from the council at how Pride supports community support work.
“Everybody knows how much money it brings into the city but beyond that one weekend there is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
“I think it’s a shame that this funding remained under Labour and Conservative administrations yet it is being taken away under the Greens.”
ADULT SOCIAL CARE
By far the biggest amount of savings will come from the adult social care budget.
Exact details are not yet known but among the areas being reviewed to save money are community meals and day care centres.
Elderly champion Jim Baker, who works as a consultant to support vulnerable groups, said it was vital as much support as possible was maintained.
Mr Baker, who used to work for Age Concern – Brighton, Hove and Portslade, said: “The current circumstances means it’s getting harder for older people and their families in terms of managing money.
“The money is just not going as far. A lot of older people in Brighton and Hove have saved for their retirement and things are just getting more and more expensive.”
Mr Baker said he believed the council should look at reducing the amount of residential care as “it costs the council a fortune”.
However, he said this should only be done if there was a support network, “otherwise people become invisible”.
He said ultimately people were happier when they maintained their independence by living at home.
Brighton and Hove City Council has an annual budget of more than £700 million
However, the Government “ring-fences” funding for schools, housing and some other areas.
This means the local authority only has a say over where about £220 million is spent.
A council tax increase for 2013/14 is limited to 2% by the Government. A freeze would see the local authority receive a one-off Government grant the equivalent to 1%.
The council also plans to increase its fees and charges, from leisure centres to library fines, by 2% - the current standard rate of inflation.
After the policy and resources committee meeting today there will be a consultation period.
The full amount of savings needed will be revealed after the Chancellor’s autumn statement on December 5.
Revised final plans will be presented to the council’s policy and resources committee on February 14.
The final decision will be made on February 28.
The cornerstone of this year’s budget once again will be a council tax rise.
Last year’s plans for a 3.5% increase from the minority Green administration were voted down by Conservative and Labour groups in February.
But this year’s proposal of 2%, which is below inflation but the highest possible amount under a Government cap, appears more acceptable.
Coun Kitcat said: “I hope that in these difficult times, people will understand that the modest 2% council tax increase will help provide the services our city needs.
“It is less than inflation but, without it, services across the board, from libraries and street sweeping to care for children and the elderly, face being far worse off.”
Local authorities that freeze the council tax for 2013/14 will receive a grant equivalent to a 1% rise.
The city council’s Conservative group appear to want to freeze council tax but need to find an extra £1 million worth of savings.
The Labour group said it will not comment until it is fully aware of the financial picture.
Where will the money come from?
PEOPLE – CHILDREN’S SERVICES
Total budget £62.6 million - £3.3 million of savings (5% reduction)
- £2.6 million from Looked After Children placements, number in care currently at all-time low
- Children’s centres kept open but reduction in staff, including receptionists
- Higher charges for three-year-olds at children’s centres
- Reduction of music service subsidy – leading to increase in fees and possible reduction on service
- Some young people / families will have to make own arrangements to travel to faith schools.
PEOPLE – ADULT SOCIAL CARE
Total budget £79.9 million - £4.7 million of savings (6%)
- Review of community meals
- Reduce the number of people placed in residential care
- Possible changes to day care activities
Total budget £45 million – £431,000 (1%)
- More people needing temporary housing into private rented properties rather than bed and breakfasts
- Reduction in preventing homelessness budget but “no significant impact” on service
- Possible closure of car pound
- Reduce public subsidy to cricket clubs – sports teams will have to pay for upkeep of cricket pitches
- Replace bedding plants with perennial planting except at Old Steine and Floral Clock
- Reduction in Environmental Health inspections
- Trading Standards business line cut
Total budget £16.8 million – £337,000 (2%)
- EQUALITY: Freeze at 2012/13 levels in discretionary grants to community and voluntary groups
- CULTURE: Remove annual grant to Pride but one-off £25,000 support will remain for 2013/14
- SPORT, LEISURE AND LIBRARIES: Visitor Information Centre near Royal Pavilion closed; possibly will become part of Brighton Centre box office. Remove or reduce mobile library service. £100k extra income from Royal Pavilion
RESOURCES AND FINANCE
Total budget £31.4 million – £1.8 million (6%)
- CITY SERVICES: Reduce size of benefits team, despite rise in number of cases. Increased funeral fees. Woodland burial site developed
- PROPERTY AND DESIGN: Closure of some council-owned buildings
- COMMUNICATIONS: £26,000 reduction after review into “non-essential” spend – despite total communications budget across council being £2.9 million
Total budget £8.2 million – £950,000 increase (12% increase)
- Increase in overall funding due to some freeing up of Government grants
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