THE COUNCIL will spend £2.5 million less next year as Government grants are slashed, but council leaders promise no cuts to frontline services.
Eastbourne Borough Council announced plans to meet the funding gap by using fewer buildings and incurring fewer penalties for its housing benefit services among other efficiency savings, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (February 9).
The council will receive £1.33 million less from central government over the next financial year – a 12.8 per cent reduction.
Leader of the council Councillor David Tutt said, “In Eastbourne we have managed to maintain our front-facing services, avoid large scale compulsory staff redundancies and put a freeze on council tax. We have re-structured where appropriate, introduced a new system of agile working, identified and eliminated wasteful processes and focused on finding efficiencies without the need for draconian cuts.”
The council will save more than £300,000 in rent year-on-year as all staff from 68 Grove Road relocate to 1 Grove Road by March 14. The council will also move its building control services to Wealden District Council offices in Hailsham to make £36,000 savings a year.
Cllr Tutt said the council will explore different money-making schemes in the coming months, including plans for a monumental £18.5 million investment in solar panels. The council is also considering selective advertising on its website.
Chair of the council’s scrutiny committee councillor Graham Marsden voiced concerns over the budget at the meeting.
He said, “I would like to express concern for staff because, no matter how hard everyone works, there will be losers and bearing in mind they are all Eastbourne residents it will have an effect on the economy that they use.”
He also questioned Conservative inflation forecasts for the coming years, how much the council would truly make from moving staff and the risk surrounding the council’s renewable energy investment. It’s interesting work but it’s risky with such a large loan required. A very tight business plan will be something the scrutiny committee will want to be involved with.
“When we’re talking about additional loans of £18.5 million and, while at the moment it suggests a significant pay-back, one would want to make sure that will come to fruition,” said Cllr Marsden. The full council is expected to approve the draft budget on April 20.