This report sets out the budget proposals for the services covered by this Committee.
Hitesh Jolapara gave a presentation outlining the budget proposals for the services covered by the Committee. He highlighted the scale of the challenges facing local government in recent years. The Council’s general government grant had reduced from £160m in 2010/11 to £90m by 2018/19. He noted that the 2018/19 budget assumed a continued freeze in council tax and no increase in fees and charges in Children’s Services, Adult Social Care, and Housing Services.
A resident asked if the Council would be bringing the budget proposals in line with the current assumptions. Hitesh Jolapara said that the papers were reviewed regularly and the Council’s fees and charges had been frozen on a range of areas. Additionally, statutory areas had increased by 3.9% which was historically based on the August retail price index (RPI), therefore the papers were consistent with the policy requirements.
A resident asked what the assumptions were around council tax growth, in comparison to the cost of servicing additional dwellings. Hitesh Jolapara noted that the Council was not building growth into base budgets and not receiving requests for additional expenditure, however at some point the costs would start to increase. The challenges of waste production had been declining very slightly which had also helped. Furthermore, the tax base had increased due to both an increase in the number of properties but also a reduction in the number of residents claiming a council tax discount through the local council tax support scheme (which replaced housing benefits).
Mark Jones gave a presentation outlining the proposed income and spend 2018/19 for Environmental Services. He highlighted that Environmental Services were an important income generator for the Council, recovering much of its costs from external sources and some from internal recharges. A considerable amount was recharged to Transport for London (TfL). The aim was to protect front line services through savings focussed on income, improved efficiency, and procurement. He noted that saving proposals (including income and outside investment) totalling 1.9 million were included in the proposed budget and a £640k budget growth proposed to strengthen corporate health and safety and budget planning.
Councillor Charlie Dewhirst asked how much savings would the Council make if pay and display machines accepted pound coins. Mark Jones said that the old coin machines were worn out and 80% of people pay by phone, therefore the new machines in place were card only. This expected to increase income by making parking easier while lowering operating costs. It was expected that the introduction of new pay and display machines would lower the costs of maintenance and cash collection.
A resident asked how the budget for electric charging vehicles was determined and how this was progressing. Mark Jones said that the Council was receiving grants to install equipment and were at the experimental stages of what worked for electric cars in the borough, however a more detailed update would be available at a later stage.
A resident, referring to page 18 of the agenda noted that cycle street furniture and the introduction of advertising boards on the public highway were areas that had caused some concerns and could result in the increase of clutter on roads and footpaths. Mark Jones in relation to the advertising boards, explained the idea was to regulate the use of A boards on pavements which would reduce clutter in the streets. In addition, there were a number of cycle routes being developed across London and the Council was exploring opportunities to advertise on the street furniture subject to consultation.
That the Committee reviewed and commented on the report.