Budget proposals aimed at protecting frontline services and vulnerable residents have been unveiled by Coventry City Council, in the run up to the Government Spending Review later this month.
The proposals are outlined in a report to Cabinet on November 26th when councillors will consider measures to allow the Council to run effective services for residents and protect the most vulnerable in the city despite massive government spending cuts which have seen the Council’s grant from government for next year cut in half since 2010.
In the next financial year, the Council is planning to save a further £17million – although the final figure will not be known until a government announcement expected just before Christmas.
This is on top of the savings already agreed in previous budgets which the Council is still working to implement, for example through the consultation proposals announced last week as part of the Connecting Communities Programme.
Although many of the proposals in the budget are of a technical nature and will not affect services directly, the financial outlook for the next three years remains very challenging indeed. By 2020 government grants are predicted to be only 40% of their 2010 level.
The Council is expecting to bring in more Council Tax as the city continues to grow. It is also planning to reduce its borrowing costs in the short-term and make savings from modernising Council services – such as the planned move to the Friargate development and the new Customer Services Centre in Broadgate.
The report sets out that as Government grant reduces more and more, the Council will depend increasingly on Council Tax and Business Rates raised locally and sees growing the local economy as the key to the future of the city and its Council.
The report, which will be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet on 26 November before a public consultation period, will also assume that Council Tax levels will rise by 2% - the equivalent of between 30 and 40 pence a week for a typical Coventry household.
Councillor Damian Gannon, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources, said: “The Council is under severe financial pressure and we have to find new ways of delivering services for residents.
“As a Council we remain absolutely focused on supporting our most vulnerable residents through growing jobs and prosperity in our city while doing all we can to protect those frontline services that make a real difference.
“The government spending cuts that have halved our grant over the past few years are making this job increasingly difficult, but we’re determined to do all we can to soften the impact of the continuing cuts.
“We remain absolutely committed to leading the drive for economic growth and the regeneration of the city to grow the economy, provide jobs and increase tax revenues. That’s good for the city and its people, and it’s this ambition and vision to be a top ten city that will make a real difference to residents in the future.
“There are already many signs that this approach is working for Coventry and our latest budget aims to build on that.”
Councillors will also be asked to agree to another round of early retirement and voluntary redundancy for staff as the Council looks to lose around another 500 jobs on top of the 1,000 or so that have gone since 2010.
Cllr Gannon added: “Our previous schemes have been very successful and allowed people who want to leave to go, while reducing any need for compulsory redundancies. We’ve also reduced the number of senior managers at the Council over the last couple of years or so – saving us nearly £2million a year.
“There are more tough times ahead and we have to continue to take action and save money wherever possible if we are to continue to provide high quality services to the people of the city, especially the young and old and those who are most vulnerable.
“By funding this programme, we will be able to make ongoing savings in the coming years and protect Council services.”
Other work continues across the Council to save money through service reviews, vacancy freezes and cutting the use of agency staff.
The Council will also continue to work on new ways of providing services in communities and greater use of online services.
If councillors agree the report, there will be an eight week consultation period for residents to have their say. Details on how to comment will be published soon.