Colchester City Council has published budget proposals to close their unprecedented budget gap and to put it on a stable financial footing for the next three years.
Faced with a budget deficit, limited government support and £10m of extra costs, the council proposals include a mix of savings, income generation and transformation of services – all focussed on enabling it to balance its books and continue to deliver modern services for a modern city.
The key themes of the budget proposals are:
Income generation – Mid-year and annual reviews of fees and charges; a review of commercial activities for Colchester Museums and Castle Park; charging for the garden waste collection service and recycling containers/bags; a new council tax penalty for fraudulent claims; implementing commercial opportunities.
Transforming services – Senior Management Team redesign; a new and more efficient service model for Sport and Leisure and Colchester Museums; a new recycling and waste strategy to reduce running costs; a review of non-statutory neighbourhood services; more efficient digital payment, booking and telephone systems; consolidation of some housing services; working with partners to deliver community initiatives with their support.
Savings – A recruitment freeze for non-essential posts; a reduction in overtime budgets and spend; offering staff temporary reduced working hours; reviewing delivery of the ground maintenance agreement with Essex County Council.
The 2023/24 budget proposals increase income by some £1.6m, secure efficiencies of £1m through transformation, and save a further £0.9m by reducing or stopping services.
Cllr David King, Leader of Colchester City Council, said: This is the toughest budget options process that we have ever faced, and we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions to deliver a legal and balanced budget. Since 2015-16 alone, we have lost a fifth of our purchasing power. And, like everyone, we are hugely affected by the latest rise in inflation, peaking at around 11% or near four times our 3% increase in Council Tax (representing a rise of just 12p per week for a typical property).
“Three principles guide us: We’ve taken the decisions needed to ensure the long-term financial stability of the council; we have done our best to preserve the services that residents need and value most, including help to those most at risk from the cost-of-living crisis, and we recognise that the best decisions are made by working with others, with those most affected, including partners and our staff, and with all political parties. Together, Colchester will find a way to remain ambitious for better, to continue to offer modern services for a modern city, whilst balancing our budget.”
Pam Donnelly, Chief Executive of Colchester City Council, said: “Residents have told us what they want through the recent Future of Colchester survey, and that feedback is at the heart of the options in the budget paper.
“Continuing as we are, is not an option. We need to make some big changes to ensure we can balance the budget, but ultimately it will put us on a secure financial footing for the next three years.”
The budget proposals will be considered by Scrutiny Panel on 24 January and will be discussed by Cabinet on 25 January. A final set of proposals will be agreed at Full Council on 22 February.
A link to the budget papers can be found here.
Page last reviewed: 18 January 2023