Council agrees action to close £2.25million funding gap - The Worcester Observer

Council agrees action to close £2.25million funding gap

Worcester Editorial 24th Oct, 2023   0

COUNCIL chiefs agreed a series of measures to ensure Worcester City Council can reach its £2.25million savings target and continue to deliver services to city residents.

Rising costs had put the council in a position where it would potentially not be able to set a balanced budget for the 2024-25 financial year without using a significant amount of its financial reserves.

Among many other cost pressures, the council’s energy bills have risen by £600,000 a year.

The Policy and Resources Committee have considered a succession of savings measures since February this year. The latest set of measures for closing the immediate budget gap were approved at October’s meeting.

These include the introduction of a £2 admission charge for next year’s Worcester Show, a reduction in the operating periods of fountains in Cripplegate Park and South Quay, and a phased increase in allotment fees. These three measures will deliver savings of more than £60,000.

Coun Lynn Denham, joint leader of Worcester City Council, said: “The actions that we have taken show a firm determination to get the council’s finances in order. This means we will be able to continue to deliver the vital services residents value.

“The impact of the rise in inflation has not just been on households but also on local councils like ours. In 2022-23 the council had to draw more than £400,000 from risk reserves to balance the budget. In the current financial year, more than £1.7million had to be earmarked from reserves to balance the budget. This is not a financially sustainable position in the medium term.

“Making savings of this magnitude is never easy and I would like to thank my fellow councillors for their commitment and support in delivering this vital savings plan, and the council officers who have worked so hard to identify potential savings.

“Achieving the £2.25million savings target ensures we can continue to provide essential services in 2024-25. Residents expect us to be able to continue clean the streets, empty bins, provide housing services, process planning applications and much more. The challenge now is to look ahead to future years. Inflation is still high and there will be more financial challenges to be faced.”

Since February this year, when the shortfall in the council’s finances was first confirmed, a range of other savings measures have been identified and approved.

These have included a reduction in the operating hours of the Splashpad in Gheluvelt Park, a programme of voluntary staff redundancies, and the installation of solar panels on the roof of St Martin’s Gate car park to provide a lower cost contribution to the council’s energy requirements.

The ending of the Saturday skips service helped to preserve the city-wide bulky waste collection service, along with the introduction of a new charging structure which makes the latter free to those on benefits.

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