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Have your say on Bexley Council’s budget proposals for next year

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 December 2019

Bexley Civic Centre. Picture: LDRS

Bexley Civic Centre. Picture: LDRS

Archant

Bexley Council is considering a range of budget proposals – including job cuts, scrapping refreshments at meetings, and cutting down on dual carers – in a bid to combat a predicted £31m funding shortfall in coming years.

Public consultation is currently open on the plans for next year's budget, which were presented at Bexley's full meeting of council in November.

Members were informed of the pressures the authority's budget was facing, with a predicted £2.7m funding gap in 2020/21, increasing to £31.884m by 2023/24.

Ballooning social care costs for adult and children, as well as aged care home placements, were among the reasons given for the blow-out, which comes as authorities across the United Kingdom grapple with similar problems.

It means Bexley will look at an array of services where "efficiencies and new technologies" could be introduced, according to Cllr David Leaf, the cabinet member for resources.

Among the proposals is a "comprehensive review of staffing structures to ensure "the number of layers of management is as efficient as possible".

This will "include a range of reductions of manager level posts", resulting in a £350k saving in 2020/21.

Cllr Leaf told councillors he wouldn't be giving "a running commentary" on negotiations regarding staffing and conditions.

"These proposals are of course a sensitive area and all matters relating to staffing structures and terms and conditions will be carefully handled and managed by officers," he said.

"As members will appreciate I do not appreciate giving a running commentary on negotiations during the budget process or saying too much so as not to prejudice or compromise those negotiations.

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"However I want to be clear that we will look at ways of making sure we have appropriate staffing structures to meet our needs, and the terms and conditions in place to support our workforce make us an attractive place to work value and respect our staff."

It's one of a range of actions aimed at closing the budget gap.

Another proposal will explore whether upgraded equipment and moving and handling techniques could reduce the required care for some residents from one carer from two.

The council has already identified that 26 out of the 63 residents using two carers could instead have one; presenting a net saving of £192k.

Rehousing young adults who are currently living in children's placements, in a bid to find them cheaper accommodation, will also be considered - in a move tipped to save £357k.

In addition, the authority will consider scrapping refreshments at council meetings, and cutting down on printing and postage, to further save their pennies

Earlier Cllr Leaf stated the proposals would "chart the council on a course" which would enable them to continue to provide "key front-line services".

"As the report before us highlights, we continue to have significant budget gap projected for the medium term," he said.

"Members know our council can not deliver effective front-line services unless it remains solvent and financially resilient and that remains one of the key priorities for this administration.

"These proposals continue to chart us on a course that delivers us financial stability combined with appropriate investment in key front-line services."

Public consultation on the 2020/2021 budget will run until January 6, with residents encouraged to give their feedback via the council's website.


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