Reports have been published setting out proposals for how Burnley Council will meet its financial challenges over the next year, whilst continuing to deliver priority services.
The papers also look ahead over the years to 2022, showing how Burnley Council continues to face shrinking budgets, and setting out a broad approach to balancing the books.
Factors affecting the budget include a 2 per cent pay increase for local council workers, which is being agreed nationally and which Burnley Council has to implement.
A range of detailed savings are being made across all the service units in the council. Most of these have been programmed in for some time, and result from ongoing changes to the way that services are delivered, including through the partnership between the council and its business partner Liberata. ‘Growth’ and new spending is limited to just two areas – a payment linked to the democratic make-up of the council, and a sum to ensure the continuation of a post to support the Children’s Trust. This links to the council’s priority of promoting ambition and aspiration by young people.
The main changes to the local authority budget result from national government decisions which affect income to Burnley. The main ‘grant’ which the council receives from Whitehall – the Revenue Support Grant – is reducing by £550,000. The council will also receive less New Homes Bonus than previously.
Offsetting this to some extent, Burnley will see an increase in the amount of business rates which it retains. The national government has also determined how far district councils such as Burnley can increase the level of council tax.
The proposed budget would see Burnley Council working to the limit set nationally, which would mean an increase in household council tax bills of 2.99 per cent.
This approach is in line with that being taken by many other councils locally, and means that Burnley’s share of the council tax bill for a Band D property would be £291.50 for the year – an increase of £8.46 from the current level of £283.04.
The full council tax bill for a household is made up of the Burnley Council element, and also of payments to Lancashire County Council, the police, fire authority and – in areas with a town or parish council – a ‘precept’ to cover their running costs.
Council leader Mark Townsend said: “The annual budget setting process continues to be very challenging. This is largely the result of changes to local government budget rules and cash reductions imposed by central government.
“These changes have a disproportionate and negative impact on parts of northern England, and small industrial district areas like Burnley are particularly affected. Tables set out in the Medium Term Financial Strategy reports to councillors show how year on year, Burnley Council is facing spending power reductions significantly above the national average. This is not fair, and the council leadership will continue to argue for a fairer system of funding.
“Over the last six years the council has had to make savings of £10.2 million in response to Government imposed austerity and a further £3.2 million is required over the next three years to balance the books. This is the equivalent of 21% of our £15.1 million net revenue budget for 2018/19.
“The council tax increase for Band A properties which are the majority of households in the borough, will be 11p per week. Whilst increasing council tax is not something we would wish to do, it is unavoidable if we are to maintain sustainable services in the face of the savage and unrelenting cuts we face year on year from central Government.
“In that context, we are focused on our responsibilities of ensuring we achieve maximum value from every pound we spend. Decisions taken over the last few years, including working more with private partners, means that while we would never want to be in this financial situation, we are confident we can meet the challenges ahead. The proposals set out mean that Burnley Council will have a balanced budget, and that our core services will continue to be run efficiently”.