Despite ongoing government cuts to funding, the Labour council has kept the city’s finances on track for a second year.
Labour inherited a £8.5m overspend when they took over from the Green Party in 2015, but for a second year the Labour administration has prevented a budget deficit at the end of the financial year, coming within less than 1% variance of the budget plan.
In a report going to Policy Resources and Growth Committee on July 13, council officers will report the end of year position for 2016/7 as showing a slight surplus.
Cllr Warren Morgan, Leader of the Council, said: “There are a number of priorities that have arisen since budget-setting this year, and other items that are already agreed by the opposition group leaders. The administration will direct funding towards these when proposing to committee the allocation of the budget surplus we have achieved. We will also aim to respond to the recent LGA peer review, by proposing a next step in enhancing the ward roles of councillors, which I am sure would be welcomed by residents for whom their ward councillors are so important. This would fit in well with our direction of travel of bringing the council services closer to residents in different ways including through more online services and through the neighbourhood hubs and enforcement programmes.”
Proposed allocations include:
♦ 150k recurrent funding to continue the supported buses network
♦ 100k one-off funding to restore week-end Park Keeper time were needed, and in addition to manage other safety issues affecting parks and open spaces by providing a visible presence; to provide enhanced summer time verge cutting to keep pace with seasonal growth.
♦ £50k one-off funding to support domestic violence services with the volume of contacts being received
♦ £125k one-off funding covering the Shoreham memorial, the Saltdean Lido and project work for the Madeira Terraces
In addition the small surplus achieved means that the administration can move forward following the recent LGA peer review to enhance the role of ward councillors, by proposing a ward member community budgets scheme. This idea would build on the strong relationships between ward councillors and their local residents and organisations. By allocating £5k per ward councillor for community initiatives, this could enable a new pattern of partnership working to emerge across the city, and would be discussed in detail in committee later in the year.
Cllr Les Hamilton, Lead Member for Finance and Resources, said: “I would like to thank officers and staff for the way in which they have responded to the very challenging financial circumstances, and have kept the council finances on track. This has been yet again a very hard year for local government. Unfortunately we are now faced with unhappy fall-out from the Mrs May’s failed snap general election strategy, with new uncertainty due to the government’s shambolic shelving of the business rates retention scheme. But locally your Labour council will continue to manage the council finances carefully, which is in line with one of our key principles – getting the basics right.”