Hastings Borough Council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge – not just for the coming year but for the foreseeable future. We have now published our spending plans for 2013-14 and will be listening to residents’ and businesses’ comments before agreeing the final budget on 27th February.
With reductions in funding from central government the council is facing an 8.8% cut in its revenue spending power for next year – the maximum reduction the government has set and the largest in the South of England.
Since 2010 the council has seen a 50% real term reduction in funding from central government once inflation is taken into account (39% in cash terms).
We have already taken major steps to make ourselves more efficient – centralising all council staff in just two buildings (Aquila House and the Town Hall) and sharing some services with other councils.We have saved £1 million a year from reletting our major contracts jointly with other councils for waste collection and for parks and gardens. We have re-organised our senior staff structure saving £375,000. And there was no pay rise for staff again last year. But all of this has only gone some way to balancing our budget.
To bridge the gap, we are proposing to lose 40 posts (12 of them currently vacant), increase fees and charges (planning fees will rise by 15%), reduce our tourism budget by £50,000 and reduce our support for events by £20,000. We are also proposing to reduce grants to the voluntary sector by 8.8% in line with the cut in our revenue spending power. Proposed new arrangements for the housing register could save over £50,000.
Parking charges in the council’s car parks have not risen for two years but we are proposing to increase them by 10p an hour and then freeze them for two years again. This would help to fund the continuation of CCTV in the car parks.
For over ten years CCTV monitoring in Hastings has partly been supported from the surplus made from on-street parking charges. The County Council has taken back responsibility for on-street parking and handed over enforcement to a private company NSL. The County Council will no longer allow on-street parking income to be used for community safety purposes in the town. Parking charges in the Country Park will increase from £1 to £2 for a full day but with no change to the £25 annual season ticket.
However, there will be no increase in council tax this year – it last rose four years ago. We will be taking up the government’s offer of a grant equivalent to a 1% council tax rise and that means a 12-month freeze for the council taxpayer.
If you have thoughts about our budget proposals feel free to let us know in our draft budget consultation.