£26m funding gap could mean up to 300 Council job losses

From The Argus – full report here

UP to 300 jobs could go at Brighton and Hove City Council as the authority attempts to make savings of £26 million in the next financial year.

The city council yesterday published initial proposals about how it would save millions of pounds in one financial year, with seven figure savings proposed for children’s services, adult social care and support for vulnerable people.

Union leaders accused the Green-administration of “fudging” the budget by opting for “more salami slicing”, leaving the deep and difficult cuts and radical service overall until after the elections in May.

But Green finance lead Councillor Ollie Sykes said the party was “putting the city first” in the budget and proposing radical measures.

Councillors now have three months to hammer out a deal about whether to increase council tax by 5.9%, 1.99% or freeze it as they try to balance the books.

Last year the council agreed to make £22 million of savings, although the authority is set to miss those targets by £4.4 million.

The equivalent of 300 full-time posts could go through voluntary redundancy, natural wastage and not filling vacant posts, although Cllr. Sykes said a council tax rise of 5.9% could save up to 90 of the posts currently set to go.

Among the most significant savings would see £2 million saved in a review of support services for vulnerable people including the homeless, substance abusers and domestic violence victims.

The authority is proposing to make £2.5 million cuts in children’s services including cutting fostering and adoption staff to save £263,000, changes to out of school care including ending the Moulsecoomb summer play scheme and cutting school taxis for children with special educational needs.

Another £1.6 million savings in adult care could include cuts in the number of beds at older people resource centres and a reduced home care service, while £2 million in savings have been outlined in learning disability care.

Radical proposals to remove all on-street pay and display parking meters by 2017 could save £225,000 while a review in pay and display and permit tariffs would save a further £571,000.

The council proposes to start charging non-residents £5 for entrance to Brighton Museum from June which is anticipated to cut the venue’s current annual visitor numbers of 340,000 by up to 75% but to save the council £200,000.

Staff would be cut from the mayor’s office to save £100,000 a year while the Brighton Centre will get motion sensors in toilets and meeting rooms to save £5,000 a year in electricity.

The removal of the head of housing, the post from which Jugal Sharma was dismissed from this week pending his appeal, would save £100,000.

Owners of empty, unfurnished and uninhabitable properties could also lose council tax discounts which currently cost the council £1.3 million a year.

Cllr. Sykes said overview and scrutiny panels could be disbanded, changes made to the Older People’s Council, savings made in councillors’ pay and even the potential culling of half the total number of councillors.

The picture for the council is set to get even tougher in future years with the council’s bill set to rise by £58 million over five years to £439 million by 2019/20 with rising costs and demand.

But by 2019/20 the council will get just £39 million in Government funding, compared to £103 million in 2014/15. It will leave a shortfall of £102 million. Other funding comes from council tax, business rates, rents and charges.