THE Council’s latest package of savings and income proposals total £10.5 million and will be considered at a Policy Committee meeting on Monday December 5th.
Despite £65 million of savings made since 2011, the Council still faces a funding gap of £42 million because the Government has cut local authority funding at a time when demands on Council services are increasing (see notes).
By 2020 it is estimated the Government will have cut the Council’s grant by £57 million, to a figure of just under £2 million. Taking into account the increased demands on services, by 2020 Reading Borough Council will have been forced to make at least £107 million of savings.
Since 2010, the loss of Government grant for every Reading resident currently stands at £150 per head. In neighbouring Wokingham – which has far fewer demands on Council services – the figure is £66 per person.
The Council is continuing to consider all possible savings options as it builds a balanced budget for 2017/18 and beyond, which it has to by law.
Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said:
“The scale of Government cuts this Council faces is unprecedented. I would ask residents to think about the effect a 40% cut in wages would have on their household income. The average national wage is around the £27,500 mark. If you cut that figure by 40%, your monthly wage packet falls from £2,290 to just £1,458. Add to that the rising cost of living – including food and energy bills – and any family would struggle to make ends meet. That is the reality of the size of the challenge the Council faces.
“The 40% figure does not even take into account the substantial additional costs of the rising demands on key Council services.
“It is also clear that you cannot compare the demands on Council services in a town like Reading, with more affluent places like Wokingham. Since 2010 every man, woman and child in Reading has lost the equivalent of £150 per head in funding for local Council services. Next door in Wokingham the figure is just £66 per person. We do not believe that is fair.”
The December 5th Policy Committee report can be found at www.reading.gov.uk/article/9628/Policy-Committee-5-DEC-2016 (Item 9)
Savings and income proposals outlined in the report total £10.5 million and include:
Increasing income from advertising, out of hours car parking at Council sites, promotion of direct Council services and the licensing new venues for weddings (including Caversham Court and the Forbury Bandstand)
Sharing public health duties with neighbouring LAs
Identifying savings and efficiencies in children’s services commissioning
Further reductions in the Council Tax support scheme
Reducing care packages through better integration
Continuing to find efficiencies across all services
Cllr Lovelock added:
“This Council has fought for years to protect residents from the worst effects of the cuts. We have continued to provide and subsidise services other Councils have not, but we are no longer in a position to do this. In a week when the Chancellor abandoned the Government’s own targets on debt, he offered absolutely no respite to the planned local government cuts and no indication of additional monies for the huge social care pressures every Council is facing.
“We have no choice but to continue to bring forward savings and income proposals in order to balance the budget, as Councils have to by law. The latest package of savings proposals are a direct result of the huge reductions in Government grants. More difficult decisions will follow in the months and years to come in the context of the extreme budget challenge we face.”
Further savings proposals will need to come to Council committees over the following weeks, before a budget for 2017/18 is considered at a meeting of Full Council in February next year.
Of the near £42 million of savings the Council needs to make by 2020, £23.4m have been agreed previously. If £10.5 million worth of proposals are agreed at Policy Committee on December 5th, a budget gap of nearly £8 million remains. That figure is likely to increase further if demands on key services continue to rise above forecast levels.
Reading Borough Council has delivered £65 million of savings since 2011 which include:
- Making the difficult decision to close Arthur Hill Pool in east Reading ahead of seeking a partner to replace it with modern and less expensive-to-run facilities
- Introducing an annual charge for green bin collections from April 2017, which many other Councils introduced years ago
- Reviewing high cost care packages for vulnerable people by promoting independence
- Cutting library hours and reducing the amount we spend on library books
- Cutting Council funding to the town’s voluntary and community sector
- Making better use of technology, reorganising services so they are more efficient and making the best possible use of buildings
- Closing the expensive-to-run Civic Centre and moving into refurbished Civic Offices, saving £5.5 million in energy bills
Notes for Editors:
Information on increased demands on Council Services
Population: The latest Census in 2011 showed number of residents increased by 9% since 2001 to 159,200 people, made up of around 63,000 households. The population is forecast to increase by a further 24% by 2050, to 193,056 residents. This growth, whilst welcomed, has an impact on Council services.
Caring for older people: There has been an increase in the over 65s (about 8%) population and people are living longer with long terms health conditions. The over 65 population is expected to rise steadily in Reading, with a notable rise in the over 85 population. By 2020, the Council predicts that 25% of people who pay for their own care are likely to have run out of funds and will therefore be eligible to have their care paid for by the Council.
Caring for vulnerable children: This year Reading Borough Council’s Children’s Services Team saw an 85% increase in referrals to social care year-on-year, and a 41% increase in social worker caseloads. The Council is currently caring for 265 looked after children.
Providing more school places: The Council has nearly completed a £61 million expansion programme aimed at creating more than 2,500 extra primary school places across the borough to cope with rising demand for school places. Just one-third of the total cost of the expansion programme is paid for through Government funding.
Waste collections: The latest number of households in Reading is around 68,500. The general rise in population across Reading means more refuse to collect and higher waste disposal costs for the Council.