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Bexley Council faces £18m budget gap

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 July 2019

Councillor Teresa ONeill OBE. Picture: Steve Hickey

Councillor Teresa ONeill OBE. Picture: Steve Hickey

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Council bosses need to find £18m within the next year as finances remain tight in Bexley, despite councillors already having signed off on millions in savings.

Finance officers are predicting a cumulative budget gap of more than £38m by 2023/24.

They warn: "There continues to be significant uncertainty in future funding for local government.

"Additionally, the council continues to experience significant population growth and demographic change, placing further pressure on service provision."

Since 2011, Bexley Council has already found £100m in savings - having signed off on dozens of "efficiency savings" just last year.

Increasing costs for caring for vulnerable children, pressure on adult social care and homelessness are all costing Bexley Council big.

Housing alone was predicted to go over budget by £1.7m - an overspend that has since rocketed to £2.4m.

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This is down to a growing number of people becoming homeless, which has put pressure on council staff, as well as a lack of affordable rented homes.

At the same time, central government is continuing to have a tight grip on councils' budgets, with Bexley one of dozens of authorities still waiting for the outcome of a much-anticipated spending review.

Officers added: "The government is revising and updating the distribution process of funding between local authorities through the fair funding review.

"In summary, it is still difficult to gauge the full impact on the council until details of the design of the new systems are introduced and final schemes have been agreed."

Council leader Teresa O'Neill said this week: "While the financial outlook is challenging, our attention is focused on continuing to use our resources to deliver our services in an efficient way and exploring opportunities to do things in new and better ways.

"We aim to make a positive difference to the lives of our residents by working as closely as we can with local people and organisations."

Recent research by the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that one in three councils fear funding for vital services will run dry by 2023.

The council's financial outlook will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on July 9.

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