Colchester Council takes action as financial pressure continues

PUBLISHED: 17 January 2024

An updated report on Colchester City Council’s financial position will be discussed by both its Scrutiny Panel (23 January 2024) and Cabinet (24 January 2024) next week.

Colchester City Council has a strong track record of financial management, having saved nearly £16 million since 2018, from its budget of £26 million. Further savings of £6.262 million are needed over the next three years, which is expected to grow with continued rising costs.

To close this gap, and to future proof the council as an organisation, it will put proposal plans in place to reduce its operating costs by 25 percent over the next three years. These proposal plans are called the ‘Fit for Future’ programme and will mean the council will reshape what it does and how it delivers its services, ensuring that the council and its services are affordable, fit for the future of the city, and for the people that live, work and visit Colchester.

The report also details how the decision for the council to match the national pay award means it must find an additional £600,000. Council officers have been working hard to find savings and efficiencies, with freezes on recruitment and non-essential spending having been in place for the last 12 months. This £600,000 is an additional pressure requiring further saving measures.

Pam Donnelly, Chief Executive of Colchester City Council, said: “Like every resident, business and council in the UK, the current economic climate means that the costs of delivering services are increasing, and Colchester City Council is no exception. 

“We are taking a measured and pragmatic approach to make these additional savings, whilst trying to minimise the impact on essential services and our staff. We are looking at voluntary redundancies/retirement options, but we must be clear, this may also mean charging for previously free services and an increase to some fees and charges. We don’t want to implement any of these options, but the money must be found, and the decisions will not be taken lightly.”

The report being considered by Scrutiny Panel and Cabinet outlines how the majority of this additional money can be found (£558,350) with the remaining being absorbed by the council’s reserves. Key points up for discussion include:
  • A different operating model at High Woods Country Park Visitor Centre, either community led or reduced hours of opening.
  • Introduce an entrance fee to Hollytrees Museum to recoup the money for staff costs for this and the Natural History Museum, which will remain free entry.
  • Closure of the Coffee Shop at Leisure World Colchester with an alternative vending offer or community-run facility in the future.
  • Reducing staff numbers and doing less.
Cllr David King, Leader of the Council, added: “The financial situation is incredibly difficult. We’ve already managed to identify a lot of savings and efficiencies at Colchester City Council, and we’re working tirelessly to protect both staff and customers as much as we can. However, the sad reality is that jobs and services levels will be reduced. But we will do all we can to keep what matters most, whilst ensuring that the council takes the radical steps needed – to ensure we can balance the budget, live within our means, and have a council that cares for the most in need, still has ambition and performs well, but is fit for the future.”

To view the budget report that will be considered by Scrutiny Panel on 23 January and at Cabinet on 24 January, visit the council’s website at here.

More detailed information about the ‘Fit for Future’ programme will be available in February 2024, when a report is scheduled to go to Scrutiny Panel.

Page last reviewed: 17 January 2024


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