|The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on Crawley Borough Council’s finances.
The lockdown and subsequent restrictions meant that the council’s income from K2 Crawley, The Hawth, Tilgate Nature Centre, car parking and community centres was significantly reduced.
At the same time, expenditure on services for our most vulnerable residents increased.
While the government has given us £1.4m to help pay towards this shortfall, we are still £1.2m short. This figure will grow to at least £1.7m in 2021/22.
This means that bold decisions are needed to save money in the current financial year and in future years. It’s highly likely that several council services will have to be reduced. This is despite the development of new income streams for the council, for example the commercial space in the new Town Hall.
These potential savings options are being explored in parallel with a number of internal efficiency reviews and other initiatives. The council has already made internal savings of £500,000 without reducing or removing services.
We are now proposing to plug the remaining budget gap by:
· Reviewing waste services, potentially moving from weekly to fortnightly rubbish collections and considering the introduction of a weekly food waste collection. Fewer than one in five councils still have weekly collections. This would increase our recycling rate, helping us move towards our aim of being carbon neutral by 2050 and saving taxpayers’ money
· Post-Covid, reviewing the support the council gives to the community and the voluntary sector. We currently spend more in this area than other districts and borough councils in West Sussex
· Closing or reducing the operating hours of public toilets
· Reviewing adventure play, moving to a more flexible model of delivery
· Reviewing the number, type and specification of cricket squares, bowling greens and croquet lawns
· Where appropriate, pricing our fees and charges accordingly so that costs are covered.
Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said: “For the last six years, Crawley Borough Council has bucked the trend. Despite huge cuts to local government funding, every year we have managed to generate enough new revenue to make up for the cuts without having to put council tax up above inflation. Due to the pandemic, that is no longer possible.
“Throughout the lockdown, the money-making parts of the council were forced to shut, while various new costs arose. Unfortunately, the financial consequences will last long beyond this one year, with the economic impact resulting in a significant ongoing cut to the council’s income from business rates and council tax.
“As a result, for the first time since I became Council Leader we are having to make real cuts to balance the budget. We will do everything we can to make savings humanely and minimise the impact on frontline services, but there will be real consequences for service delivery.”
We are asking for your views on these proposed savings in our four-week consultation. Visit crawley.gov.uk/consultation to have your say.