Published on Monday, 20th October 2014

 

A final decision on the council's budget for 2015/16 is to be pushed back a month. This is to allow more time for the public and members of the council to digest its implications before a vote.

 

The crucial vote was scheduled for November 11th, but with another million in savings still to find the administration is not yet in a position to publish a draft set of proposals. Were we to follow the pattern established in previous years that would not matter: the budget has generally only been released a week before the vote and there would still be plenty of time to complete it. However that would leave no opportunity for public debate before  the decision is made and that would not be right. The meeting will now be on December 9th.

 

The response rate to the council’s budget consultation has been encouragingly high, which just goes to show that many people are interested in local affairs. The total number of replies was about 2500, which is about five times the number received during the corresponding exercise a year ago. If you ask people an honest question, you will get an honest answer and the consultation has given the administration a much clearer idea of residents' priorities for their city.

 

The council has to make £13.1m in savings this coming year, with similar amounts needed in 2016/17 and again in 2017/18. This equates to a roughly 10% reduction in controllable net expenditure per year; finding savings on that scale is not easy.

 

The administration will also do everything it can to maximise  the council's income, which is why for example the beach huts proposal is being brought forward. The budget will include millions in efficiency savings and contract re-negotiations, but there is no denying that there will also be a lot of straight cuts and service reductions. Portsmouth City Council is however coping much better with the budget reduction process than many other authorities.

 

One final thought – the annual value of all the savings enacted between 2010 and 2016 will exceed the annual revenue from the Council Tax. The government has taken this money to go towards closing the deficit, but had it left it with the council we could have abolished the tax and still have money left over.

Tags : Budget