Thursday 23 February was a big day for Brighton & Hove – full Council reviewed the Administration’s budget proposal for 2017/18… and just before midnight members approved it. It was not a typical birthday celebration for yours truly, but interesting nevertheless.
We all know that local government continues to face a tough time financially. Finding over £20 million in savings for 2017/18 has been very difficult – especially on top of similar asks in previous years. The Finance team worked tirelessly with members and colleagues for some months to get to a proposition that met the council’s legal obligation of a balanced budget. It is a tribute to everyone across the council that this was achieved.
Along the way it was vital for Finance to be seen as even-handed in order to help things reach a conclusion – even if we didn’t win many popularity contests as a result! In fact members were agreed on almost all of the budget proposals, and the longer debates were confined to a small number of areas including youth services and third sector grants. But now it’s all over for another year.
From my experience, it’s too easy to let financial doom and gloom cloud our collective mood, so we must remember that there is a lot of other very positive stuff going on. Across the council, staff are very active.
New apps are under development as part of the Digital First programme to make transactions easier for residents – in fact this week the team provided members with a progress update that went very well. We are also using data analytics to better understand the growing demands and pressures around adult social care. This is a big deal in our effort to manage one of the budgets that consumes a big chunk of our money.
As well as the big regeneration and development schemes that you see on your way to work, further funding is coming for the Royal Pavilion Estate, and fresh ideas are in play around how we attract yet more inward investment to the city. The council is also investing in 60,000 new wheelie bins across the city to improve our recycling rates.
Just a few diverse examples that show the continued breadth of the council’s contribution to the city whether in terms of basic services, protecting the vulnerable, or strengthening the economy.
Closer to home, in Finance & Resources, progress towards the Orbis partnership has ramped up in recent months. Staff who have chosen to get involved are finding reasons to be optimistic from their dealings with the other two councils, over and above the natural trepidation that comes from big change.
I’m looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible in coming weeks.
Cheers for now.