Balancing our budget for 2024/25
Have your say.
The council is facing unprecedented financial pressures. From historically high inflation increasing contract costs, to rising housing costs and through to large increases in cost and demand in supporting our most vulnerable residents with social care, the council has some major cost increases.
Councils are required by law to deliver a balanced budget and we cannot spend more money than we have.
If we can't fill the funding gap and balance our budget, we would be at risk of requesting exception government financial support and of central government assigning external commissioners to review our finances, and if necessary, agree a recovery programme. Therefore, we have been working through a range of different options to ensure that the financial gap for the next financial year is filled as soon as possible. We want to consult on some of these options.
Please watch this short video by Councillor Iain Cottingham our Portfolio Holder for Finance and Corporate Services:
The Leader of West Berkshire Council Councillor Lee Dillon and Councillor Iain Cottingham, Executive Member for Finance, will be available at public drop-in sessions at the following locations/dates:
|Hungerford Leisure Centre
|Tuesday, 12 December 2023
|5.30pm to 7.30pm
|Kennet Leisure Centre
|Wednesday, 20 December 2023
|5.30pm to 7.30pm
|Willink Leisure Centre
|Wednesday, 3 January 2024
|5.30pm to 7.30pm
|Monday, 8 January 2024
|5.30pm to 7.30pm
2023/24 budget position
Forecasts earlier in 2023/24 showed that we would overspend by £8.7 million by the end of March 2024 if we carried on spending in the same way. This is because the COVID-19 pandemic still affects our finances and has caused a delay in people coming forward for help, which has led to a higher demand on our services and an increase in the complexity of social care support. The increased cost of living has also affected demand on our services. In addition, high inflation rates have made it more expensive for us to provide services, and as residents and businesses struggle to make ends meet, we make less income from areas such as parking and leisure centres.
Through taking the following actions, we have already reduced the overspend:
- reviewed all recruitment activity to fill only the most critical vacancies this year
- reviewed all spending and approving only that which relates to statutory services, or which are otherwise unavoidable
- reduced the number of agency workers we employed
- worked with staff to look at new ways to save money, and brought forward transformation projects to save money earlier than planned
Work is continuing to balance the budget for 2023/24 and we are sure that we will be on track to do this by the end of March 2024. The latest overspend forecast for Quarter 2 is £3.3 million.
2024/25 budget position
In 2024/25, our costs continue to be more than our income, meaning that we will have to find a further £14 million in savings or income generation if we don't make any changes to our spending. To put this into context, this is nearly three times the savings we would have to find in a "normal" year (£5 million) and is the second year that we have had to save a far above average amount of savings. This figure is based on the assumption that Council Tax increases by 4.99% overall in line with previous government referendum limits.
Our 2024/25 financial position is:
|Proposals identified that do not require consultation with the public
|Proposals identified that require a policy change
|Proposals identified that require consultation with the public
|£1.4 to £1.75 million
|Further savings/income to find
To fill the remaining gap, we have a range of options available, including changing the way we provide services, making internal savings, for example: re-tendering contracts for better value for money, reducing overheads, making redundancies, spending reserve funds, and introducing new charges or increasing existing charges for some services, for example, parking fees. All internal savings will be included in the report being considered at the Executive and Full Council meetings being held in February 2024.
The council is proposing to use approximately £1.5 million of capital receipts to fund a range of transformational activity. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) sets out the guidance around the flexible use of capital receipts.
Through extensive internal discussions and meetings with our service providers, we've identified 10 saving and income generating proposals. Details of each proposal can be found below:
We have discounted using our reserve fund, as it is a one-off fund, and is already forecast to reduce below the minimum level required by the Chief Financial Officer. As part of the budget process, we are proposing to increase the General Fund reserve by £1 million to provide greater financial resilience.
Why we want your views
Before making any decisions on these proposals, it's important that we hear the thoughts of our residents, communities, and other interested parties to understand how they might be affected by them, and how the impact of these proposals could be reduced should they go ahead.
How to take part
If you would like to read more about our proposals, please click on the links above. There might be some proposals that you're more interested in than others, but if you have the time, please consider each proposal.
You will also find information on how to take part and who to contact if you have any questions through these links.
Please let us have your comments by midnight on Thursday, 11 January 2024.
What happens next
The budget for 2024/25 will be considered by councillors at the Executive meeting on Thursday, 8 February 2024, and then by Full Council on Thursday, 29 February 2024. It will also be discussed by members of the Special Scrutiny Commission on Tuesday, 6 February 2024.
All meetings will be open to the public and residents can attend either in person at the Market Street Offices or virtually.