Braintree District Council recognises a challenging year ahead as it considers initial proposals to deliver a balanced budget at an upcoming meeting next week.
The council is required by law to set a balanced budget, and this year’s budget setting exercise is taking place against a continuing national background of extreme pressures for councils, driven by the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, global increases in prices and interest rates, the effects of the war in Ukraine, alongside escalating costs and extra demand on council services.
Sound financial management has left the council in a stronger position than many other local authorities, and therefore the scale of savings being proposed over the next year are not as large as elsewhere.
The council plans to use reserves to plug the financial gap, but with the effects of the global economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures, as well as the increased cost and demand on services, further savings and additional income are needed.
A number of saving proposals to mitigate the budget gap in future years will be considered by councillors at upcoming committee meetings, with the final budget being agreed in February 2023. As far as possible these measures are designed to protect the delivery of council priorities and consist mostly of efficiency savings and income generation measures, with service reductions as a last resort.
No decisions have been taken on council tax plans for 2023/24 yet and will not happen until February 2023 when the council has more certainty on its funding position when information on any financial settlement from government is known and received.
Councillor Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “Our budget challenge is not out of step with other councils – being able to fulfil a legal duty to set a balanced budget and provide essential services remains extremely challenging. Although good financial management over the past years has put us in a better position than most, there will be some difficult decisions ahead, but we are committed to limit the impact on services as much as possible and achieve savings through planned efficiencies and maximising income to ensure we support those who need it most and protect the services residents rely on.”
Councillor John McKee, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Transformation, said: “We have a strong track record of managing our finances well through efficiency savings and maximising income, which has left us in a sound position and means we can continue to focus on our priorities, but it does not mean we will be immune to having to make tough decisions in the coming months and years.
“We continue to call on the Government to give councils extra funding so we can meet ongoing pressures, protect and deliver the services residents, businesses and communities value and need, and allow us to effectively plan budgets for the years ahead.”
The proposals will be considered at the upcoming Performance Management Scrutiny Committee next Wednesday 23 November as the first step in the council’s budget setting process. The proposals will be reviewed and submitted to Cabinet later this month and February next year, and then to Full Council for final approval in February 2023.
The Performance Management Scrutiny Committee agenda can be found here.