Consultation could start next month on a ‘tough but essential’ set of possible budget cuts as Coventry City Council addresses a ‘financial crisis brought on by years of under-funding’.
Savings are needed to ensure the Council can meet its legal duty of setting a balanced budget while continuing to deliver the key services to residents and businesses in the city.
The Council has started its process of setting the budget for 2024/25 but faces difficult choices ahead with a £12m funding shortfall this financial year, which is set to rise to around £30m next year.
A report is set to go to Cabinet on 12 December for permission to start consultation on a range of proposals the following day. That consultation will run until 7th February 2024 before elected members agree the final Budget at the end of that month.
Cllr Richard Brown, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Coventry, like so many other local authorities across the country, is facing very difficult times brought on by years of severe and successive under-funding by the government that is now being exacerbated by unprecedented rising demand and inflationary pressures.
“Sadly, in the coming weeks and months, that situation will be put into clear focus as we prepare to set our budget for 2024/25. We deliver more than 600 services and in order to balance the books, we need to make some very difficult choices, particularly if we want to protect vital services like support for our elderly and young people.
“We want to hear the views of residents, but we have to warn people that the consultation will outline some very difficult proposals we are being forced to consider.
“Since 2010, more than £100m each year has been taken from the Council meaning the city receives one of the lowest funding per head of the population in the country and one of the lowest in the West Midlands.
“That has been added to by issues such as the inflation, cost of living rises, the need for extra housing, and increased demand for adults’ and children’s social care. Indeed, around 75% of our entire budget is now spent on social care and homelessness – up from 40% in 2010.
“As we meet these challenges, we must still protect the most vulnerable in our communities and provide essential services.”
The Council remains committed to delivering the One Coventry Plan and its key priorities of improving outcomes and tackling inequalities, improving the economic prosperity of the city and tackling the causes and consequences of climate change.
But to ensure the Council remains able to deliver key services and its priorities, it is set to go out to consultation on budget saving proposals including measures such as:
- Charging for collection of garden waste
- The first car parking price increase during the day from Monday to Saturday since 2017
- Overnight switch-off of some streetlights
- Changes to the Godiva Festival so it covers its costs
Cllr Brown added: “These are tough proposals to make but to take no action would be irresponsible as we must protect frontline services such as social care and homelessness to protect the most vulnerable as much as we can.
“At this point, these are just proposals that we want to take views on. Final decisions will be made in February.
“Coventry is a prudent council and despite severe challenges, has been able to protect services while working to build a better Coventry for the future, and improve the quality of life for those who live here.
“That achievement has been remarkable set in the context of chronic government under-funding, which after 13 years is becoming unsustainable.
“We have repeatedly called for more help and support – not just to us but for a new way of funding local government as the financial distress of councils in England has its roots in a funding system that is broken.
“For more than a decade, councils have worked hard to find efficiencies and reduce costs, but the easy savings have long since gone. It is wrong that our residents now face further cuts to services as well as the prospect of council tax rises next year, as all councils face the difficult choice about raising bills to bring in desperately needed funding.
“I fear it means austerity is back with a vengeance with councils facing further annual cuts of 3.4% for five years on top of the yearly cuts of more than £100m we’ve already had to deal with.
“This is clearly a decision by government to say this is going to be somebody else’s problem and not ours, leaving councils across the country and the residents they serve feeling the impact.”
Further details on the budget proposals and the consultation will be discussed following the meeting of Coventry City Council’s Cabinet on 12 December