Cabinet starts budget-making at time of unprecedented uncertainty
Bexley’s Cabinet will receive an update on the increased challenges and uncertainty surrounding the Council’s financial planning at its next meeting on 7 July.
The Council was already working on plans to address existing medium-term financial challenges and is reviewing the impact on its finances caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As well as resulting in increased spending, the pandemic has also caused a dramatic loss of income, including from Business Rates, commercial rent and other fees and charges.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have delivered an entirely new range of services from scratch and at speed as the government asked us to do, to help residents, businesses and our staff,” explained Council Leader Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE. “We have adapted to work in new ways, focused on supporting the most vulnerable and have worked with our partners to mobilise the army of volunteers who have come forward to help those in need and fight this pandemic. But Lockdown has also had a massive impact on our income.
“The Government has provided us with some additional funding and we are continuing to lobby for further funds to be made available to support the delivery of our services. We will also continue to look at ways we can transform our services to squeeze the most out of every penny of taxpayers' money we have, to invest in the services that matter most to our residents.”
On current assumptions, the Council faces a budget gap of more than £10m in 2021/22, increasing to £32m by 2024/25, which at this stage does not take into consideration the longer-term impact of the pandemic.
Councillors will consider new transformation and savings proposals to go out to consultation which will help reduce the Council's spending and increase income to support investment in services and the Council's priorities.
Cabinet Members will also be asked to approve the rationalisation and rescheduling of the Council’s long-term capital investment programme, to reduce the Council’s external borrowing costs and to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the likely delivery of projects.
The Council plans to consult local people from July to September on a first set of transformation and savings proposals. It will put forward a second set of proposals for public consultation from November to January.
All the proposals will also be considered by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
All councils are required by law to set a balanced and sustainable budget and keep enough reserves to ensure that they can deliver their legal responsibilities and priorities.
A comprehensive report on all the issues facing the Council in agreeing its Medium Term Financial Strategy is included in the papers for the Cabinet meeting.
The meeting will be held online and webcast for viewing live or after the event.