Southend facing major funding gap as grants are ‘decimated’

The leader of Southend Council says funding from the Government has been decimated and official documents show the authority could find itself short of millions by 2025.

Councillor Ian Gilbert said cuts made by the Government over the past ten years has resulted in a 93 per cent reduction in funding for the council, with grants slashed from £63million to just £6million.

Council documents also reveal that further cuts combined with the growing demand on services could lead to a funding gap of as much as £23million by 2025.

Speaking at a council meeting laast week, Mr Gilbert told councillors: “A decade of austerity means that raising council tax is inevitable.

“It is not something I want to do, but it is the right thing to do.

“For the first time in ten years the main grant we receive from Government will not be reduced and will rise by Consumer Price Index, or £100,000.

“I have seen in some quarters a suggestion that this should be seen as a reason to celebrate.

“Yet to say the main grant we receive from Government has been decimated in the last ten years would be an understatement.”

Council documents show that the expected funding gap for each year could go from nothing this year to £7.7million in 2021, £4.7million in 2022, £5.7million in 2023 and £5million in 2024 – a total of £23million.

Documents further show that council tax will continue to rise by at least 1.99 per cent year-on-year as the authority becomes more reliant on the tax, as well as one-off grants and long-term investments as a source of income.

However, councils will receive extra funding from the Government through the retention of 75 per cent of business rates.

Mr Gilbert added that Southend Council has been able to deliver the budget without having to cut frontline services but implied there had been a significant impact internally.

He said: “Whilst we have managed to propose a budget that does not cut any front-line services, the council cannot stay the same.

“Change is inevitable. Some departments are going through difficult changes now, and I do understand that is painful.”

The council’s deputy leader Cllr Ron Woodley said: “Some department will have to go through a transition change because we are looking at departments and where they need to be reorganised. Although no job losses are forecast, some departments will have to look at how to reorganise to give service we are looking for residents.

“We’ve had a £58million drop in funding. For the next financial year that £6million is carried forward but in previous years we’ve had a £58million funding drop.

“Demand is growing on adult social care and on children’s services and that is what is making it more difficult and eventually we will probably loser that £6milion after next year.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter