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Council faces “real challenge” over feared £12million funding gap by 2021, but hopes for £310million long-term investment in town and road improvements

PUBLISHED: 11:30 12 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:30 12 July 2017

Bexley council offices

Bexley council offices

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Cabinet members approved a five-year finance strategy on Tuesday night

The council has warned it faces “a real challenge” as it prepares for a £12million deficit in four years time.

With government support grants dropping from £21million last year to £1.4million in 2021, the council admitted it faces growing pressure on care for the elderly and vulnerable, alongside the almost £20million drop in funding.

Plans to tackle the cut will be discussed in the autumn.

On Tuesday, Tory cabinet members approved a five-year finance strategy to pay for local services and improvements, which included £310million plans for improvements to town centres and infrastructure.

The council has plans for £18million worth of investment into improving Erith town centre, along with £36million on roads and transport infrastructure, while £120million is expected to be pumped into housing development.

Increasing development in the borough is hoped to bring in more money from council tax and business rates to help support the financial strategy.

Deputy leader Don Massey said: “Our plans to make the borough an even better place to live are based on a firm foundation of careful financial planning.

“We have had to make big adjustments because of changes to our funding over recent years, but we have managed this by improving our efficiency and transforming services to ensure we are spending our money on the things that make most difference to people’s lives.”

Labour councillor for education Stefano Borella reacted to the report: “School funding is an issue that came up in the election campaign, going forward schools don’t know what’s going, they have no idea how to plan.

“We know there’s been a real-term funding cut in school budgets since 2010 when you consider inflation, increased National Insurance contributions, increased staffing costs and fixed costs, this is impacting Bexley schools’ numbers of teacher assistants, school support staff and teachers, as well as after-school clubs and enrichment activities.

“These are all things being removed in schools at the moment and are under threat moving forward.”

Cllr O’Neill responded: “In terms of school funding, there are announcements that are currently outstanding, and we will be having our say in the coming weeks.”

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