Brent Council's Overall Financial Position
Next week's Cabinet will discuss proposals for the 2021-22 Council budget. The report to Cabinet LINK lists many uncertainties caused by the pandemic and lack of clarity over government funding. However, the report states:
The new proposals for 2021/22 and 2022/23 are designed to limit, as far as possible, service reductions and the impact on front line services particularly during these challenging times. For example, the new proposals include expected gains from re-procurement of major contracts, service transformations and efficiency savings. This does not mean that delivering these planned savings, if approved, will be managerially straightforward, or that front- line services will be entirely unaffected, or that they can be achieved without staffing reductions, but it is nonetheless the case that the new proposals set out in this report do not include the wholesale cuts to services that many Councils are considering and indeed implementing.
Consultation on the proposals will take place between this month and February 2021.
Features of the budget include
A Council Tax increase of 4.99%, making a Band D Council Tax of £1,378.26 (for the Brent element). The GLA precept is unknown at this stage and is subject to their own decision making and consultation processes.
New budget savings proposals of £5.1m to be delivered between 2021/22 and 2022/23. LINK
An increase of Council rents of 1.5% (figures below are per week)
The report admits that the Council Tax rise will hit people. It refers to the Council Tax Support scheme which they expect to be used more but not all of those hit by the rise will be eligible. Similarly more people may fall into rent arrears when so many are hit by job losses and income falls because of Covid19.
Three possible scenarios are given for pressure on services ranging from additonal costs of £5m to £20m
Officers estimate that 63% of the planned cuts are on track to be realised, while others will be realised in future years. One cut that was due was via a review of homecare and placement packages, re-commissioning day care (£250,000).
The report states:
This saving is delayed because the re-commissioning of daycare has been affected by Covid-19 as daycare will have to be delivered in a different format as a result of the pandemic. It is expected that these savings will be achieved through reduced transport usage.
A disability campaigner told Wembley Matters:
Although there is very little detail it looks like the only 2 day centres left for disabled people will not reopen and all the council daycare will be in a new format. But the. clue is they will save £250k in transport costs from the remainder of this year and another £250K next year. That means with no daycentres, no transport is needed to pick the disabled people up, as most of them have mobility issues.So who will speak up for the most severely disabled people in Brent, if not Wembley Matters? It seems that nearly every London borough has an organisation representing disabled people but Brent does not have one, apart from Brent Advocacy Concerns which no longer have the resources to challenge the council anymore.
The report states that these cuts are 'technical' and therefore don't have to be consulted on. They are included for transparency:
The Freedom Pass saving depends on the progress of Covid and a return to normality is likely to increase demand again.
Schools are funded separately though the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) calculated by the National Funding Formula. Schools have incurred increased costs because of Covid and there has been some central government financial support but this has now ended, although additional money still has to be spent on additional cleaning costs, and supply cover for staff self-isolating or on sick leave. Covid restructions means that lettings income has dropped through the floor.
However, many were already facing financial problems because of the school funding crisis and the unfunded pay increase. More are expected to fall into deficit next year. The situation will worsen because the High Needs Block of the DSG is not keeping up with demand so the Schools Forum will be asked to take money from the Schools section of the budget to additionally fund the High Needs in the borough.
High needs funding is intended to provide the most appropriate support package for children and young people (from early years up to aged 25) with special educational needs and disabilities in a range of settings, taking account of parental and student choice.
The report states:
The pressure in the HNB has led to the DSG being in a £4.9 million deficit carried forward from 2019/20 and further forecast pressures of £4.2 million in 2020/21 will increase the deficit position to £9.1 million. The DfE require local authorities with an overall DSG deficit to present a plan to recover the deficit over a number of financial years. To recover the deficit in the medium to long term, options being reviewed by the task group set up by the Strategic Director of Children and Young People include;
Looking to establish more Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) provision in the borough as part of the School Place Planning Strategy Refresh including developing new Additionally Resourced Provisions (ARPs);
Ensuring there is full cost recovery from other local authorities that place pupils in Brent special schools including administration and other specific costs;
Review of the DSG funded SEN support services currently underway.
One thing is clear - without any action by the Government schools face a very tough time financially in 2021-22 as will most Brent residents.