Councillors in Burnley are considering ways to meet the severe financial challenges that lie ahead as they prepare to agree this year’s budget.
Burnley Council is facing making savings of more than £4 million, or 27.5% of the 2017/18 revenue budget, over the next three years as a result of Government funding cuts.
The council’s executive meets on 13th February to discuss several financial reports, outlining the state of the council’s finances and looking ahead, as preparation for setting the 2017/18 budget later this month.
Last month the Government revealed that Burnley’s Local Government Provisional Finance Settlement (LGFS) is going to be £442,000 less than expected.
Council leader Mark Townsend said: “We have been misled by the Government. We signed up to a three-year efficiency plan on the basis that we would have the kind of assurance over the level of Government funding we need and expect. We’ve also lost £1.6 million in New Homes Bonus, plus £148,000 a year over the next four years, due to the Government changing the rules. Burnley’s overall funding has reduced by 4.3%, almost four times the England average.
“We’ve been let down by the Government and, once again, the most deprived areas such as Burnley are being hit hardest.
“Over the past 12 months we’ve had to find more than £1.6m of savings to balance the books. That means we’ve made £13.2 million of savings since 2010. Our overall budget has been cut to £14.6 million, compared to £18.5 million in 2010/11. Under those kinds of unprecedented cuts we have no choice but to have to make difficult but necessary decisions.
“The Mayoral referendum has blown a black hole into our finances for 2017/18 and, as a result, we will have to use part of our reserves. Without this extra cost we would have been putting forward a budget for the first time in six years without the need for reserves. Reserves that we have paid back through our careful and prudent approach to our finances.”
Councillor Wajid Khan, executive member for resources and performance management, said: “Despite the bleak position we face, Burnley Council is committed to focus on maintaining high quality essential services to our residents; services that residents and the council see as their priorities. We will continue to provide value for money, and to squeeze the maximum value from every penny spent.
"We will also continue to listen to our residents and take a “you said, we did” approach where we can. For example, residents see tackling dog fouling and littering as a top priority. So do we, which is why we are teaming up with a partner company to strengthen our enforcement work and issue Fixed Penalty Notices to those who spoil our communities. We are also investing in new street cleaning equipment and a community clean-up initiative
“The council is committed to attracting investment into our borough, through bringing in new businesses, supporting existing companies to expand, and by making Burnley an attractive place to live and work. That “can do” approach has paid dividends and we are determined to make sure it continues. It is about being utterly committed to investing in the future of our borough.
“Unfortunately the impact of the Government’s cuts are most strongly felt by our residents. Faced with the financial position we’re in, we have no choice but to raise Burnley’s share of the overall council tax bill by 1.9%. That equates to less than 7p per week for Band A properties, the majority of households in our borough.
“Finally, the council has to adapt to the changes and challenges ahead. Our strategic partnerships with companies like Liberata and Urbaser, and the creation of Burnley Leisure, show we are open to changing the way we work. That will continue. The council is launching an internal Invest to Save scheme to kick-start cost saving and revenue generating initiatives.
“We are ready to rise to the challenges ahead.”