6th Jul, 2020

'Tough decisions ahead' as Redditch struggles to cover budget deficit

‘DIFFICULT decisions’ lie ahead in the next two months for Redditch Borough Council as it faces a funding shortfall of £3.2million up to the year 2024.

The cash-strapped authority enters the new year having already trimmed some £2.3m off an earlier £5.5m projected deficit but a report to councillors states: “it is clear that significant savings and reductions in expenditure need to be identified”.

And at a recent meeting of the authority’s all-powerful executive committee the news prompted a jab at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government, particularly as much of the spending it has announced will be at county level, one tier above boroughs and districts like Redditch.

“We know district councils all around the country are struggling yet it appears the government only seems to see as far as county councils and not what lies underneath them,” Coun Mike Rouse (Con, Church Hill) told the meeting.

“I want to see local government funding for the long term made a priority.”

He suggested they give the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid MP for neighbouring Bromsgrove, a nudge “to gain some assurances at a district level on funding.”

Coun David Thain (Con, West) agreed: “We are in a serious situation and we need to tread a very careful path.

“The county council seems to be a tier above us in terms of funding and getting ourselves noticed is something we should all be aware of and hopefully it will change.”

The authority, which last year was served with a ‘Section 24 Notice’ indicating it was on the verge of running out of money, is having to find more than £1million a year in savings.

In the next few months it has to put together a budget for the next financial year and has already courted controversy by summarily suggesting it ends rent concessions for local charities using council properties – which could see many of the nine voluntary organisations affected close – and cutting ties with the loss-making Rubicon Centre.

Meanwhile at the Town Hall vacancies have not been filled and its vehicle fleet replacement programme reduced while other savings have been made through a management restructure.

The authority has been further hit by a government decision to restrict council tax rises to just two per cent instead of an anticipated 2.99 per cent, which will cost it £92,000.

Council officers warn that given the authority’s financial situation ‘a reduction in the level of services delivered to the public’ is a risk.

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