Monday, 16 July 2018

Cuts of £30m in Brent budget likely 2019-21

The Finance Report going before Cabinet this afternoon LINK looks towards the 2020 cliff edge when local government no longer gets a direct central government grant.

 The report looks at the cost pressures above and quotes the Audit Commission: 
“The current trajectory for local government is towards a narrow core offer increasingly centred on social care. This is the default outcome of sustained increases in demand for social care and of tightening resources”
The report notes that currently one third of the Council budget goes towards social care but that the government is publishing a green paper on social care funding and integration with the NHS in the autumn. The implications of this for the council budget are unclear and thus not included in the report.

Brent Council has made £164,000,000 'savings' since 2010 and the forecast is that another £30m will need to be cut from the budget between 2019-20 and 2020-21, £29m from general services and £1.3m from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

The report notes that because of uncertainties over government policy this figure only has +/-20% accuracy. More accurate figures will not be known for a year.

The officers' assume a council tax rise of 4% annually, 2% general cash funding and 2% for adult social care but note that last year a rise of 5% was allowed. CIPFA suggest that the 2018-19 council tax rise may be the biggest for 14 years.

In addition the council may also make further increases in the cost of non-statutory services provided to the public and continue to seek other  revenue raising opportunities such as selling advertising space on its buildings.

However the main source of funding in the future will be council tax and business rates.  Brent is estimated to receive £7m from the pilot 100% Business Rate Retention Pool in 2018-19 but the rate will be 75% through the Fair Funding Review and 25% in specific grants in 2020-21.

One option that Brent Council has been following is to seek to increase its council tax and business rate base - more people paying into the pot and this is particularly evident through the new housing approved in specific areas of the borough. If the new occupants are young and without children this results in increased income without much additional strain on services.

The council estimates the council tax base to increase by 2.5% a year which will be reviewed and refined as part of the financial planning process. They claim that it is harder to forecast the business rate base because of the impact of appeals (which can take a considerable time to be resolved by the VOA) and because it is more directly impacted by broader changes in the economy. They are currently working to a figure of 2% in 2019-20 but have not anything beyond that due to the forecasting difficulties.

In terms of the private student accommodation springing up around the borough, that yields little, because property is exempt if everyone living there fulls into one of several categories including full-time college or university students and 18 or 19 year-olds in full time education.

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