At a meeting on Tuesday 8 November, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet have agreed a range of draft savings proposals for the 2023/24 financial year
The savings proposals come as councils across the country face unprecedented financial challenges from the cost-of-living crisis and continued rising demand for adult and children’s social care services.
In February 2022 the council was forecasting a budget shortfall of around £23 million for next financial year (2023/24). However, continued increases in demand for services and the national economic situation have had a significant impact on that budget forecast.
Energy costs are expected to rise by about £3 million next year, higher interest rates will cost an additional £1.8 million (at current rates), and the nationally agreed pay award for staff will add £3.9 million more to costs than was originally forecast. Prices of fuel and the products and services bought by the council continue to rise at a rate that was not predicted at the start of the year. These cost-of-living and inflationary pressures come on top of an estimated £15 million increase in the costs of providing adult and children’s social care next year.
To put the scale of these budget pressures in context, the original forecast of £23 million budget shortfall for next year has now risen to £46 million - equivalent to around 20% of the council’s £225 million revenue budget (the budget available to spend on delivering services).
The draft budget proposals include £12.6 million of efficiency savings which will be achieved by making changes to the way the council works. These form part of the £17 million of draft savings identified so far, £1 million of which are proposals that the public is now being consulted on.
The consultation questionnaire will be available from Wednesday 9 November until Tuesday 10 January 2023. Feedback can be provided via the form online, or by requesting a paper copy in a library.
The consultation proposals are:
- Removal of the one-month council tax exemption for empty and unfurnished properties
- Energy cost efficiency through the reduction of street lighting and switching to LED lighting
- Increase in service charges, rent, and landlord-controlled heating costs in council owned homes
Despite having identified over £17 million of savings in the draft budget proposals, an additional £28.9 million of savings still need to be found by February 2023 so a balanced budget can be achieved for the next financial year.
Councillor Satvir Kaur, Leader of the Council, said: “All local authorities are having to respond to increases in demand and the cost-of-living crisis, and we are no different. The tsunami of additional costs we are facing are adding significant pressure to services that are already extremely stretched and it is getting more and more difficult to protect the frontline services on which everybody depends. With more people understandably accessing our services at a time of great need, it’s imperative we continue to prioritise those who rely on us most.
“Despite these challenges, we remain ambitious for Southampton, working hard to deliver on our promises, creating places to be proud of, putting in place plans to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and offering value for money. I would encourage everyone to have their say in the consultation.”