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Meeting the Budget Gap


Sep 27, 2017 #budget, #Finance

SUNDERLAND City Council’s Cabinet is considering a report on key financial issues over the next three years when it meets on Wednesday (Wednesday 20 September).

The report also sets out the planning framework for the next budget and outlines proposals for additional revenue savings to help it meet its remaining budgetary gap.

Cabinet Secretary Councillor Mel Speding, said: “Austerity continues to bite and there’s still a great deal of uncertainty around local government funding, including the Government’s future plans and the impact of Brexit.

“The timing of proposed reforms to local government finance, including the move to 100 per cent retained business rates, also appears to be up in the air following the general election so we can only base our planning on the best information available at this time.

“We estimate that the combined impact of Government funding cuts and unavoidable cost pressures mean we’re going to have to deliver further on-going savings of almost £45m by 2020/21.

“However almost £26m of the savings required for 2018/19 and 2019/20 were consulted on and agreed by the council in March as part of the previous budget process, so much of the groundwork because of Government cuts has already been done.

“That means the funding gap reduces to £3.4m for the two years up to 2019/20, with further savings of £9.2m required for 2020/21.”

Additional proposals for meeting the gap are now being considered and include:

– reviewing telephone contract arrangements
– reduced insurance premiums
– reviewing adult social care contract arrangements to ensure commissioning is not taking place outside of existing fixed price contracts
– reduced energy consumption resulting from previous investment in energy efficiency measures and advance purchase arrangements
– a new cost saving mail system
– energy cost savings resulting from replacing conventional street lights with LEDs
– increased rental income from an extension to the Lear factory at Rainton Bridge
– reducing running costs for things such as printing, photocopying and car mileage budgets in line with need as a result of the council’s much downsized workforce.

Cllr Speding added: “The Government has imposed cuts on us so we are looking at how we can design and minimise any impact on the delivery of front line services.

“The council has downsized significantly over recent years (it now employs fewer than 3.000 people compared to more than 7,700 in 2009/10) and we have continued to redesign and reshape services to make sure our business processes are as lean as they possibly can be at the same time as maximising any savings from good housekeeping.

“Decisions in relation to increases in council tax will be considered as part of the final budget setting decisions early in the new year after the receipt of the Local Government Finance Settlement.

“The last few years have been incredibly tough for everyone. But, we should also be mindful that during this time the council has continued to invest in Sunderland’s infrastructure and economic regeneration. These investments are about delivering more jobs and economic growth plus making the city more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.

“The International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) with the 5,000 plus jobs it will bring is making progress, we’re just months away from the completion of the landmark New Wear Crossing which will open up new regeneration areas for economic growth, and we’re very proud to be in the running for the City of Culture 2021.”

Cabinet meets from 2pm at Sunderland Civic Centre.

By Emily