Council approves final budget 2011/12

Published on 14th February 2011

Local residents have helped to create Cheltenham Borough Council’s budget for next year, 2011/12.

The final budget - which was approved at full council on Friday - has been shaped by the views of more than 1,700 people who took part a high profile consultation.

It takes place against the background of an unprecedented financial crisis which has resulted in huge cuts in public expenditure. In the next two years, central government funding will reduce by almost a quarter. As a result the council's net budget will decline from £16.73 million in the current year to £14.08 million in the coming year.

The proposals, which were approved with no amendments will save £2.8 million. These include:

 No increase in council tax, frozen at £187.12 for a band D property
 Cutting cabinet members' allowances by 5%
 Pay freeze for staff for the next two years
 Reductions in civic expenditure
 Continued promotion of shared services with other local authorities to reduce long term expenditure and increase service resilience
 Reducing the cost of council assets for example through the sale of surplus assets
 Lowering running costs in council premises which are still needed, for instance by reducing energy consumption
 Smaller budgets for corporate training schemes
 Internal restructures to increase efficiencies, as part of the council's move to become a 'commissioning organisation'. This will see a senior management restructure, which will save £213,000 per annum when completed
 A freeze on parking charges
 A 'zero recruitment' initiative - with the exception of statutory services and revenue raising activities
 A reduction in the number of staff - 32 jobs will be lost accounting for 5% of the council's workforce
 A reduction in planting in some parks and gardens 
 Increased support for youth work and the voluntary sector to enable them to supply provision of reduced services
 Cutting the grant to Cheltenham Festivals.
 Restructuring the council to focus on commissioning services in a way that protects quality as well as saving money
 Charging for the collection of green waste
 Closing some public toilets but allowing the public access to their toilets as an alternative to using the current facilities.
Following consultation around the draft budget, it was agreed to fund the following on a one-off basis with funds secured as a result phasing the increase in pension costs arising from the impact of the financial markets on the pension fund.
 The funding for cutting grass verges will be reinstated for one year while negotiations proceed with the county council about the long term future of this service.
 In order to help Cheltenham Festivals become more commercially viable and to make Montpellier and Imperial Gardens more attractive, £140k will be invested in improving the garden layouts.
 £6k was given to Cheltenham Arts Council for the coming year only.
 £3k will be spent on extending the programme for oiling seagull eggs over the next two seasons.

Cabinet member for finance and community development, Cllr John Webster, said: "We considered everything that the public said to us during the consultation and have tried to address specific issues. We have balanced the budget without closing a major service which is a major achievement, but have had to do some things we would rather not do.

"I am much more confident that we can address the cuts in future years having got through this one - but I have to warn people there will be more cuts next year, and the year after that, and the year after that as a result of the spending reductions imposed on us by the Government. We will all be paying for the financial crisis for some years yet. The period of austerity has just begun. Things will get a lot worse before they get better."

Mark Sheldon, chief finance officer said: "Despite planning for the 10.7% cut announced in the coalition Government's emergency budget in October, the actual cut in cash support to the council will be 15.16% in 2011/12. The council has worked incredibly hard to save £2.8 million next year with minimal impact on frontline services.''

See the approved report.

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