Proposals for nearly £3million in savings for the next financial year were approved last night; however a further £6million is required to balance the books.
In addition to using money from the council’s reserves and contingency budgets, additional savings and efficiencies are being sought across the council to mitigate the increasing social care pressures the council is currently experiencing.
The council has identified £167million worth of savings since 2010 which have already been made, or will be delivered by 2019. This is 62 per cent of the amount of the council’s net budget at the start of the decade.
To address the extensive cuts in central government funding the council has been prudent in managing its finances which has included adding to its reserves in recent years. The council has also focused on helping the local economy in an effort to increase business rates and is creating much needed homes which has also increased revenue through council tax.
In addition to funding cuts already made, the council continues to face uncertainty regarding schools’ funding and grant funding. By the end of the decade there will also be a change to the retention of business rates, but the full details of what this will mean for the council are not yet known.
There will also be an impact from the 2017 business rates revaluation which will come into effect from April. The council could see an overall reduction in its income from business rates and top-up grant due to business rate appeals which the council has no control over as they are assessed by the Valuation Office Agency.
This is in addition to the challenges the council already faces regarding demand for school places, temporary accommodation and social care arrangements and the impacts from further welfare reforms.
However the cabinet has agreed to invest nearly £10million in the borough on high priority capital projects including:
• Expanding special schools and increasing the free entitlement to nursery provision from 15 to 30 hours per week
• Improving community facilities at Gunnersbury Park and Hanwell Community Centre
• Adult care provision including improvements to the Solace Centre, and improvement grants for home adaptations.
These will be paid for through council funding and other sources.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of the council, said: “Despite these government cuts we are resolute in our determination to continue to make Ealing a great place to live and work. We are growing our way out of austerity and have been very active in encouraging new businesses to locate to Ealing to generate future income from business rates. Our ambitious regeneration projects are attracting business and creating jobs, securing transportation improvements and delivering more decent and affordable homes for our residents.”
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance, performance and customer services, said: “Local authorities across the country are being asked to bear the brunt of the government’s welfare and funding reforms, which are being doled out at a rapid and unsustainable pace.
“We have responded by being prudent in our financial planning, being innovative in identifying efficiencies that better serve our residents while always striving to protect the most vulnerable.”
All cabinet decisions are subject to call in for a period of five working days from the date of publication of the minutes of the meeting.