|Council Leader Jeremy Birch talking about the budget|
The council set its 2014-15 budget on 26th February. The headlines are: no increase in the borough council’s element of the council tax, no increase in council car park charges and no job losses as a result of the budget.
The backdrop to the budget is that Hastings Borough Council is receiving the biggest cut in government grant of any council in the South East – 50% since 2010. Government grant amounts to more than half of the council’s net income.
This can only mean the council becoming a smaller authority, employing less staff and providing fewer services to local people over the next few years.
But we have prepared as best we can for this. By building up our reserves we are now able to release some of that money to support the budget for next year and for the next couple of years to help smooth our downward path to a smaller council.
However, some new spending has still been made possible in the new budget. The council will be spending £20,000 a year on co-ordinating a town-wide anti-poverty action plan involving a number of public bodies.
There will also be a one-off sum of £300,000 for a national cultural festival to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 2016.
The council also agreed its capital investment programme which amounts to £3 million for 2014-15. This includes nearly £1 million on disabled facilities grants to adapt the homes of residents who need it, £250,000 for Hastings Pier, £250,000 as part of a lottery bid to improve Hastings Castle as a visitor attraction and £100,000 to improve facilities for mourners at the crematorium.
As the freeholder of Priory Meadow the council is putting £200,000 into a £2 million facelift and improvement package which of course will see H&M moving in at the end of March.
I believe we are an effective and efficient council and the government agrees as they gave us the maximum £250,000 efficiency bonus. Now this budget is approved we are moving on to efficiency reviews of council services to see how we can do still better and be still more cost-effective in this climate of serious grant reductions.