Council Faced With Difficult Choices In Tough Budget - 13 January 2017
Hastings Borough Council has unveiled proposals for its 2017/18 budget.
Council leader Cllr Peter Chowney explained :- "We are faced with continuing cuts from our government grant, which has fallen by over 50% since 2010. Yet there is increased pressure on some of our vital services, such as dealing with homelessness, and staff salaries and inflation continue to rise.
"This year alone we are faced with a cut of well over £1m in our total government grant :- our 'revenue support grant' has been cut by £797 000 (a 28.1% cut), and there were unexpected cuts to other grants too, for example our 'new homes bonus' funding is being reduced by £379 000 (a 27.3% cut).
"We are proposing a council tax rise of £5/year, but that doesn't go nearly as far as we would like it to in balancing our books.
"We are working very hard to raise additional income :- we'd much, much rather raise money than cut services. Renting out the town hall gives us nearly £100 000 pa, and commercial property investments such as the new BD food factory, the seafront kiosk, and buying the retail park in Sedlescombe Road North will raise around £500 000 a year. We are having to raise fees and charges too, including car parking and our beach huts. We continue to 'invest to save', buying our main office accommodation Muriel Matters House last year will save us £75 000 pa.
"We are working much more efficiently too, changing the way we work and 'going digital.' This is saving us around £150 000 pa.
"But even with our additional income and our more efficient ways of working, some cuts are inevitable. For example, we are looking to close the Harold Place and Ore village toilets, where we believe there are suitable alternative toilets nearby, and reduce what we give to our voluntary sector by £42 000. And in spite of our efficiency savings, only around nine 'full time equivalent' posts will be lost overall.
"But it's not all bad news. We will invest more in waste and street cleaning, and in our cultural development. Our capital programme includes further improvements to Pelham Arcade, the country park, coastal defence, and more.
"We will continue to generate new income where possible, for example through setting up our own housing company, investing in more beach huts, using our parks and open spaces for new events that don't just make us money but add to our community and cultural life, and through energy generation.
"We will work with partners to attract investment into the area, continue to lobby for high speed rail, and continue to promote Hastings as a great place to live, visit, work and invest in. We will also continue to support higher education in Hastings, and a successor to the University of Brighton.
"So although there is no doubt that the budget will be tough, we will do all we can to be more efficient, improve our performance and customer care, and get the very best for local people."
Full details of the budget, and how to comment on it, can be found on our website from Friday 13th January, when formal consultation on it starts.
The budget for 2017/18 will be discussed and agreed at the budget council meeting to be held on Wednesday 22nd February.