Southend council sets 2012/13 Budget
At its meeting on Thursday 1st March, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council set its budget for 2012/13.
For the second year in succession extremely difficult decisions had to be made to enable the authority to balance its books in the face of severe financial constraints.
But despite the adverse economic conditions the Council was able to make efficiencies of nearly £12m demanded by Government whilst still maintaining the full range of services it currently provides.
Nearly £4m in efficiencies were achieved through renegotiating existing contracts, rationalising systems and localised shared delivery.
To ease the burden on residents the Council‟s element of the Council Tax for Southend, already one of the lowest in the country, was frozen for the second year running.
In addition, existing parking charges were maintained across the borough and many parks, leisure, library and pier charges frozen in a bid to assist the local economy and boost local businesses.
To balance its books for the forthcoming financial year the Council will make £7.849m in efficiencies across its five spending areas including: Adult & Community Services - £2.825m Children & Learning - £2.005m Enterprise, Tourism & the Environment - £1.640m Support Services - £0.930m and Corporate - £0.449m
A further £3.997m in efficiencies will be achieved through contract re-negotiations, localised shared delivery and systems rationalisation.
A total of 120 posts have been identified as being at risk, of which 49 are currently vacant. Employees working in the affected areas and the trade unions have been fully briefed.
But the Council‟s policy of keeping vacant posts open and operating a Talent Pool system will help to keep the number of compulsory redundancies to an absolute minimum.
The budget adopted two proposals suggested by the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council - the reintroduction of free swimming for the over 65s on one day a week and the re-launch of the Advantage Card, which offers concessions for leisure centre users.
Two suggested amendments to car park charging proposals were also incorporated in the final budget following submissions by local businesses, which are; The proposed charge for Seaway Car Park of £2 from 9pm to Midnight has been replaced with a charge of £2.50 from 8pm to Midnight. The charge from midnight to 8am will remain free Charges for the car park behind the Camelia Hotel will now commence from 10.30am rather than 9am, thereby preventing difficulties for overnight visitors in local hotels or guesthouses.
Despite the continuing financial constraints the Council is pushing forward with a capital investments programme which will deliver improved facilities and boost local economic growth.
These include: the provisional creation of a new primary school and the re-development of seven existing primaries the stabilisation of the cliff slip on the sea front which will eventually provide a site for the town‟s proposed new museum and infrastructure improvements and ongoing maintenance to the town‟s world famous Pier.
Council Leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “Whereas in earlier years the focus has been on driving up performance across a range of service areas and delivering a challenging capital programme we now live in different times and our primary concerns have been to protect service provision and to meet increasing service user demand whilst simultaneously delivering significant revenue savings.
“During the current year we have continued to perform at upper quartile levels across the organisation and have received external praise and recognition in many categories including customer service, internal audit, street cleaning, adoption services, child social care, five Blue flags for our beaches, four green flags for our parks, seven Quality Coast Awards, a national Royal Town Planning Institute Public Realm award for the four „Better Southend‟ schemes and national design and innovation awards for the Southend Swimming and Diving Centre.
“The ongoing delivery of high quality services has been achieved with massive amounts of hard work, commitment and initiative by our officers and members.
“It is a matter of great credit that council employees from all parts of the organisation and at all levels have responded to the challenge in this way.
“It is not easy when faced with salary freezes, the constant threat of redundancy, increasing responsibilities, changing job roles, and occasional ignorant and ill informed criticism.
“It is impossible to deliver continued savings at this level without effect on service users. We do not have the option of leaving our current services as they are.
“We have to make difficult decisions and it is our obligation to explain to those effected that these decisions are made without relish and only after long and difficult deliberation.”
Member since: 10th July 2012
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