Cabinet will discuss the changes the Council needs to make to its financial plans ​and a strategy to respond to the continuing challenges in local government finance and the further financial pressures arising from the coronavirus ​pandemic.

Next week’s meeting of Bexley’s Cabinet will discuss the changes the Council needs to make to its financial plans ​and a strategy to respond to the continuing challenges in local government finance and the further financial pressures arising from the coronavirus ​pandemic.

Throughout the year the Council has been exploring opportunities to reduce the size of its budget gap through​ transforming services, efficiencies, reducing costs and increasing income to provide investment in key local services. This month’s report provides an update on the latest assumptions that inform its planning.

“The Council always faced a significant financial challenge in 2021/22. The pandemic has added to the size of our challenge, increased our spending and created unprecedented uncertainty that continues to overshadow our forecasts,” said Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE, Leader of the Council. “Most councils have been affected in the same way and the proposals and strategy we will discuss next week should keep our finances on track ​to deliver a balanced budget that invests in local services for our residents.

“That said, the level of uncertainty is such that we will need to keep the situation under regular review, and we may have to take more difficult decisions before we set next year’s budget in the spring.”

At its meeting next week, the Cabinet will consider the response to the public consultation that took place over the summer on an initial set of savings proposals.

The latest report to the Cabinet explains the further work completed over the summer and sets out a strategy to set a balanced budget for 2021/22 based on the current situation. This involves closing the latest forecast budget gap of around £13m and will include a reduction in the Council’s workforce. Bexley continues to prioritise vulnerable people and the services that are most important to residents.

The Council’s plans also include negotiating a line of credit with the government, which will give the Council the option to spread some of the unprecedented financial impact and risk of the pandemic over future years, through a capitalisation order.

​”The Council has a strong record of managing its finances well through forward planning and taking action as early as possible to close budget gaps and invest in key services,” said Councillor David Leaf, the Cabinet Member for Resources. “This year we have faced the unprecedented challenge and impact of a global pandemic, which has disrupted so many lives and caused new cost pressures on the Council and a higher level of uncertainty for the medium term.

“Families, businesses and local authorities across the country have been affected and are making decisions about how to manage their finances to get through this period and that is the approach we are taking. By setting our strategy and approach, we are showing our residents that we are working to put us in a position to address the challenges posed by the pandemic and to invest in the services that matter most to local people once the pandemic is over and life starts to return to some form of normality. ​There will be some difficult decisions to take as part of this process and we will engage constructively with our partners, residents and staff as we work to finalise and deliver these plans.”

The report to next week’s Cabinet meeting is available on the Council’s website at https://democracy.bexley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=149&MId=29254.

The meeting will be webcast live and available to watch afterwards at https://bexley.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

A further report on the Council’s financial forecasts and plans will be discussed at the Cabinet’s next meeting on 15 December 2020. This will include more detail on the proposed staff reductions, on which the Council has begun to consult staff.

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