Councillor Peter Chowney,
Leader of the Council and Finance and Property Portfolio Holder
presented the Draft Budget and Corporate Plan, to inform panel
members about the draft documentation and get their feedback as
part of the consultation process.
The Leader explained that this
year had been a difficult year for the council. The council have
identified savings of £1.9m but still have a deficit of
The Leader ensured that the
future deficit will get smaller because of the savings we are
The Leader discussed the
reserves, and how using these reserves doesn’t address the
problem long term. After next year there aren’t many usable
reserves because we find it necessary to keep the reserves above
£6m, in case of exceptional circumstances with our statutory
The Leader discussed some of
the additional costs which have put strain on the budget this year.
The reduction of income from local land
Redundancy and pension strain costs as a result of
The Cliff Railway income has been lost due to
ongoing maintenance, but this income will come back.
Homelessness Temporary Accommodation Costs are the
major issue. £2m was spent this year.
In reference to the increased
spend on Temporary Accommodation, the Leader explained that the
number of people hasn’t increased much but the length of time
that people are having to stay in Temporary Accommodation has
increased substantially. This is because of a struggle to find
suitable accommodation that they can afford. To alleviate this
council are looking at buying housing across Hastings. Should the
crisis diminish, the housing can be sold or used as permanent
The Leader then went on to
discuss the upcoming financial year and referred to the various
factors that will be significant dents in the budget. Some of the
challenges in the upcoming year will be cuts in grants, volatility
in income and expenditure and increased pressure on council
services. In regards to income generation, the main sources in the
upcoming year will be fees and charges and commercial property
The Leader also discussed the
main examples of how the council plan on reducing spending. The
main points that are proposed in the budget that the leader
The senior management restructure
Land sales, and investing the money in property
Continued reduction of revenues and benefits staff
due to the introduction of Universal Credit.
Reduction in funding for the White Rock
Ending the monitoring of the Hastings Borough
Council CCTV system. The CCTV is proposed to just be monitored by
Sussex Police in the future.
Many more can be found in Appendix K2 of the
The Leader then went on to
discuss the capital programme and the opportunities to progress
The Leader summarised his
presentation by stating that he knows this year has been difficult
for Hastings Borough Council. The council had hoped the savings
this year would help us more than it has. Hopefully these savings
will bring us to stability. A lot of the decisions in the near
future depend on the results of the Government’s funding
reviews. All districts have quite severe problems with deficits,
and Hastings is in a better position than some. We can achieve the
savings we want but it’s understood that many services will
have to suffer from reduced funding in order to do so.
The floor was then opened for
The Chair asked the Leader of
the Council whether there is knowledge of how these savings will
have an impact on the community/locally?
The Leader of the Council
responded saying that previous cuts had been far more impactful on
the local community, and this year the frontline is not as
prominent when it comes to savings. The CCTV is probably the
biggest thing but this means Hastings Borough Council will have the
same service as any other council in East Sussex.
Panel members then asked about
Community Partnership Funding (CPF), as if this is ceasing this
will have a huge impact on the community.
The Leader explained that the
CPF will not be ceasing this year, and the intention is to pass the
funding on to the Foreshore Trust.
The board also had questions
regarding Waste Collection.
The Leader explained that when
the KIER contract came to an end, it was clear the council had been
under-priced for the service. When the contract was retendered it
came in much higher than expected. This is why the service was
brought in house but this has had an impact on our
Questions were asked in
reference to the CCTV and whether this has already been negotiated
with Sussex Police and also to explain further the impact on
The Leader responded first to
the question about developmental control. He explained that a
complex restructure is happening but enforcement services will
still be maintained. We trust that the officers know their workload
and that work will continue to be as efficient with this
restructure. Then, the Leader explained that the police are being
consulted regarding the CCTV.
The panel members then asked
questions regarding the staff savings, how the remaining staff
would be supported.
The Leader responded saying
things will get more difficult when there is fewer staff. It brings
us down to around 300 staff. We’re not cutting back to the
bone but because we have additional burdens it is difficult. We
have reduced from 600 to 300 staff in recent years. We will be
putting in place any support we can. Part of the reason why the
leader is now stepping down is due to the relentless cuts in
services. he has had to oversee.
The board then asked to what
extent the Towns Fund, if successful, contribute to the capital
programme as this may allow flexibility or capital into
The Leader explained that as
Hastings Borough Council have to put in a proposal so we
can’t guarantee where the money will be going. There needs to
be a community consultation built into the development of the
The panel members also brought
forwards concerns about reducing the community cohesion at a
sensitive time for the country, as Brexit is soon happening.
Members wondered if a phased approach would be better in this
The Leader agreed.
Panel members also had
questions about the reserves, and what the options are regarding
using them. They also brought up the spending reviews mentioned in
the presentation, and how this will impact decisions at
The Leader responded by
explaining that in terms of going below £6 million in
reserves, this would be at odds with the advice of the
Council’s Section 151 Finance officer. If we dipped below
this threshold by spending an additional 1 or 2 million pounds this
only postpones the problem. Our options
are very narrow.
The panel asked whether the New
Homes Bonus monies should assist with the council’s budgetary
The Leader explained that the
council is very limited in terms of New Homes Bonus potential than
its larger, less urban neighbouring authorities. This means the New
Homes bonus is a very difficult stream of revenue for the council
to receive consistently.
The Chair also reminded members
that the consultation doesn’t finish until February
7th 2020, so if any further comments wanted to be made,
they could be done so via the appropriate channels.