Members will be presented with the initial budget proposals for Culture and Community Learning, Housing and Community Services, and Benefits Services for 2012/13 at the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 29 September 2011.
This is part of the council’s budget building process. This process will be conducted over the coming months with final decisions of the council’s budget being taken in February 2012. The process includes consideration of all initial proposals for growth and savings by the council’s six Overview and Scrutiny Committees in September and October. Overview and scrutiny Committees will consider budget proposals again in November 2011.
Borough of Poole is facing budget pressures of almost £18million over the next three years, of which £5.4million relates to 2012/13. The position may change subject to Government policy changes and funding decisions expected over the next few months. The council’s net revenue Budget for 2011/12 was £102m.
It is essential that the council ensures that it makes the very best use of all monies spent and the focus of the plans for savings are to ensure that all services are delivering the very best value in terms of both quality of services and value for money. The report being presented to the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee puts forward initial savings proposals of around £300,000.
With more people needing housing advice from the council, additional investment of £90,000 is proposed to ensure we are able to meet the demand and continue to deliver key services. The council is also ensuring it is properly resourced to work with partners to reduce domestic violence, tackle anti-social behaviour and support victims.
Cllr Peter Adams, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Housing, Borough of Poole, said: "It is concerning that we are seeing more people require help with housing and homelessness and our proposals ensure we are able to provide high quality advice and support to people in this situation."
Initial savings in Culture and Community Learning will be made through the recent Adult Learning merger between Poole and Bournemouth leading to the new Skills and Learning Service. In relation to the arts, while the council continues to fund and support the arts, the council made proposals for a phased reduction of 10% per annum from 2011/12 in its grant funding over three years to the Lighthouse and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The council has worked closely with the Arts Council and both organisations in relation to these proposals.
Cllr Judy Butt, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Culture and Community Learning, Borough of Poole, said: "The initial proposals put forward mean that there will be no reduction in the library or museum service but we continue to increase efficiencies in these areas. I am pleased that the adult learning merger has been so successful and has proved efficient, ensuring a vibrant programme of courses is available in both Poole and Bournemouth.
"We greatly value the contribution of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Lighthouse to our cultural life and the economy in Poole and we recognise that they are undertaking some very proactive work in responding to these funding changes."
The council makes benefits payments of £58million per annum to support over 13,500 residents in Poole. The Government’s plans for Welfare Reform and the transfer of Council Tax Benefits to local authorities over the next few years will result in less funding being provided by Government for this in the future. This could lead to significant extra costs for the council. For example, the 10% reduction in Government funding for Council Tax Benefits currently made for people in Poole, could cost the council an extra £1.1million in 2013/14 alone if eligibility remains unchanged. Further costs will fall to the council as other welfare reform changes are implemented nationally between now and 2017. A Cabinet led cross-party working group has been established to consider the impact of the changes in national policy on local people and taxpayers.
Cllr Elaine Atkinson, Leader of the Council with responsibility for Benefits Services, Borough of Poole, said: "The government Welfare Reforms are a fundamental change in national policy and give much more local responsibility for decision making. I will be working with a cross-party group of councillors to see how best to implement these changes for the people of Poole."
The proposals will be considered by the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 29 September and their feedback will be used to inform revised proposals that will be presented again to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 14 November. The final budget is due to be signed-off by Full Council on 23 February 2012.