Council sets out financing aims

Basildon Council has set out a plan to become self-financing by March 2020, when general government grants to local councils might be withdrawn.

The plan, approved by cabinet on 3 November, involves changes to the way the council is funded and run in order to continue to provide its most essential services and invest in the area’s development to cater for a growing population.

The cabinet is forecasting an unprecedented reduction in government grant of around 81% over the next four years. The revenue support grant may cease to exist in 2020.

Ways to increase income from other sources and make further savings are being sought. Without doing this, according to current forecasts, it would face a £9million shortfall. More accurate forecasts will be available after the chancellor’s autumn statement next week (23 November).

The plan is based on five core elements: a medium term financial strategy, a series of service health checks, the delivery of a commercial programme, a review of the use of council’s assets and an improvement of the key income streams.

“We’re entering uncharted waters, but our track record of prudent and sound financial management means the council and its community remains in control of its own destiny,” said the council leader, Councillor Phil Turner.

As well as scrutinising all services to identify ways of saving money and increasing income through a review of fees and charges, the council will seek to “commercialise the approach to services” by seeing if they can sell what they do to other councils and bodies, share or buy services and goods more competitively.

The council will also look to make a more cost effective use of its properties, such as community centres, and explore the acquisition of new assets to support regeneration.

In the long term, the growth of new businesses will be supported in order to bring in more business rates.

In the medium term, it is forecasted that the council’s housing company, Sempra Homes, will start to generate income as its building programme develops over the next few years.

“There will be tough decisions ahead and many of the services you get will have to look very different in the future,” added Turner.

“I am confident, while in no way complacent, that we can meet the huge challenge that faces us.”

The complete document approved by cabinet is available here.

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