Bromley Council Budget 2017-18

About the council's budget

Here we answer questions about the council’s budget, about our financial strategy and outline the next steps for setting the budget for 2017-18. We have also included headline information about the council’s financial position and below set out some of the positive achievements from last year’s budget, which your feedback and comments helped inform:

  • We have continued to invest in the fabric of the borough.  This includes working with residents and businesses to secure funding for £3.8 million improvements in Beckenham – officers have completed the design detail and the scheme will be commenced in 2017; the development of the town centre including a multi-million pound complex with 9-screen cinema, restaurants, hotel and around 180 new homes; expansion of Bromley’s Shopping Centre known as the Glades; a fresh look for Bromley North Village; the redesign and upgrade of the central area of Bromley High Street including relocating the market; opening a modern library in Penge to complement the new libraries in Orpington and Biggin Hill and improvements to Orpington town centre.
  • Created more than 3,000 extra school places across the borough since the major school expansion programme started in 2010; supported our young people to remain in education and training and to reach their full potential, including creating work experience and apprenticeship opportunities 
  • Ensured young people with more complex needs can live, learn and work in their own communities
  • Worked with our partners to reduce crime and tackle antisocial behaviour and supported young people through our mentoring service
  • Sustained around 50 percent recycling rate and diverted three-quarters of the borough’s waste from expensive landfill
  • Continued to expand our excellent, ground breaking Friends initiatives with more than 1,000 Street Friends, more than 4,500 Snow Friends, more than 40 new Tree Friends groups and some 50 Park Friends and community groups who have raised more than £347k to look after our open spaces
  • Acquired residential properties and achieved a build of more than 50 affordable housing units to help meet housing needs
  • Made sure our assets work better for us, helping to protect frontline services
  • Supported carers living in Bromley and helped older and disabled residents enjoy life in their own homes as far as possible and live life to the full
  • Through our public health responsibilities, helped improve health and wellbeing in the borough particularly for those with diabetes, dementia, cardio-vascular disease and focused on the emotional wellbeing of young people

How much is the council's net budget?

The council has a net budget of £197 million for 2016-17.

Our spending includes:

  • £65.7 million on Adult Social Care providing services from care assessment to home care, from support for those with physical disabilities, to support for those with learning disabilities and those with mental health issues
  • £43.0 million is for children and young people and includes education, safeguarding and social care, special educational needs services, behavioural support and early years support
  • £40.6 million is spent on the environment such as waste services, street cleaning, traffic, public protection and road safety and maintaining our parks and green spaces
  • £13.3 million goes to renewal and recreation covering things like our library service, regenerating and managing our town centres and our planning services
  • £11.6 million is spent on concessionary fares
  • £7.4 million for economic development and investment
  • A large part of the council's services are funded by specific government grants which includes, for example, funding for schools and housing benefits. The council has very limited influence on how this money is spent.

How much does the council have to save?

  • The council still receives a large proportion of its funding from government. The government’s austerity programme is likely to continue until at least 2019/20 which impacts on government funding available to local authorities
  • Following the impact of government funding proposals we estimate we have to save more than £20 million in further savings over the next four years. This is in addition to over £80 million savings we have already made. 
  • The overall savings required are due to a reduction in government funding, meeting inflation costs and a number of variables such as the cost of implementing welfare reforms as well as ongoing service and cost pressures  
  • This means we will have to save at least a further 10 percent from a net budget of  £197 million
  • Although government announced a four-year funding offer in 2016-17, there remains considerable uncertainty in terms of overall funding levels. We will not know the final position until the Local Government Finance Settlement expected in December 

What is the council's strategy for setting the budget?

  • Stewardship and delivering balanced, sustainable finances are key during the ongoing period of austerity
  • We need to remain flexible and respond to the financial uncertainty and the impact of cuts in funding, demands through legislation and government regulation and other variables to provide a sustainable financial position for future years when we are facing an increasing budget gap
  • We continue to review every area of our activity to question if we should still continue certain services and if we do continue, how these will need to change as we direct resources to those in genuine need and fulfil our statutory responsibilities
  • Our aim is to continue to protect front line services wherever possible.  Every service is subject to market testing so a decision can be made about how we can deliver the service in the most value-for-money, cost-effective way, whether that is by a contractor, in-house or through the voluntary sector
  • The result is a much smaller organisation, which will continue to shrink with less resources including staff and other assets
  • Whilst Bromley remains debt free and has reserves, the council is in a more robust financial position compared with some other local authorities.  We are also the second lowest spending per head of population council in outer London.

What other ways does the council maximise efficiencies?

  • By joint commissioning with health and other partners we are working hard to achieve savings through economies of scale
  • With health partners we are working to further integrate health and social care services
  • Market testing and commissioning services from those best placed to deliver those services
  • Ensuring we get the best return on our investments and maximising our assets
  • Identifying procurement saving opportunities
  • Keeping contracts under close scrutiny and where appropriate renegotiating to maximise value for money
  • Continuing to work closely with other boroughs to look at where we can share services
  • Continuing to seek to improve debt collection rates
  • We are continuing to invest in initiatives and projects that can save us money in the future

What is the timescale and process for setting the budget?

  • As with last year, the council faces an extremely challenging budget process
  • The views and comments expressed by residents through our budget survey during November and early December as well as sessions for residents’ associations and a public meeting will help inform budgetary decisions for 2017-18 and beyond
  • The Local Government Finance Settlement is expected in December.  We won’t know the exact level of overall government funding until that time
  • A draft 2017-18 budget will be considered by the council’s Policy, Development and Scrutiny Committees and Executive meetings in January and February 2017
  • The Council Tax will then be set in February 2017

How does the way the council is funded affect its budget?

  • Bromley has the lowest level of settlement funding per head of population in London giving us £179 per head of population in 2016/17 compared to the average in London of £389.  The highest is £640.
  • The council has expressed and continues to express serious concerns with the current and previous governments about the fairness of the funding system and to lobby for a fairer deal for our residents
  • If the council received the average level of grant funding for London, income would increase by £69 million
  • Using Office for National Statistics classification of authorities, we have the second lowest Council Tax in outer London. If our Council Tax was the average of the five other low grant funded authorities our income would increase by  £28 million
  • Bromley has had to face significant reductions in government funding since 2010-11. The government is expected to continue with funding reductions given the ongoing austerity measures. As health and schools nationally are protected from significant cuts, there will continue to be significant funding reductions in local government 

What are the service pressures that the council faces?

  • We are facing growing and more complex demand for services relating to our older population, which is the largest population of any London Borough. Many having complex needs relating to dementia, physical frailty and other age related disabilities
  • Demographic changes by 2017 include, 65 and over an increase of over 2.4 percent and for 85 and over an increase of over 6.9 percent
  • An increase of 1.1 percent by 2016 of people suffering mental health issues and more than 4.6 percent by 2020
  • Those with learning disabilities will increase by more than 1 percent in 2016 and 4.7 percent in 2020 and the number of young people in our community with learning disabilities moving into adulthood is also increasing
  • We continue to work towards supporting users and carers to be more independent and able to live in the community
  • The increase in numbers and complexity of needs of children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities has required more specialist and high cost provision to be made available
  • The number of households presenting as homeless continues to rise sharply. We work with such households and our partners to do all we can to prevent a household losing their home, but there is a considerable financial impact of the sharp and continuing trend. This is likely to increase as a result of the Homelessness Reduction Bill which is currently going through Parliament.
  • Under More Homes Bromley, the council will acquire 400 units to assist those faced with homelessness
  • The impact of the benefit cap and welfare reforms has and will continue to place additional cost responsibilities on the council as part of meeting its housing responsibilities

Are there any other issues costing the council more money?

  • There continues to be additional service and cost pressures, including the impact of legislative and regulatory changes
  • Interest rates are low and our budgeted income from this for 2016-17 is  £3.5 million, compared to £9.8 million in 2008-09
  • The cost of administering Freedom Passes and the amount they are used is increasing - the council currently spends  £11.6 million on Freedom Passes
  • A high proportion of the council's spend relates to contracts which can limit flexibility to change spend levels as well as providing greater inflation pressures
  • The National Living Wage is having cost implications for the council in some of its contracts
  • Special educational needs transport
  • Up to £2.3 million of additional investment has been made available by the council to improve services for Children in line with our Building a Better Bromley priorities
  • Responding to special educational needs changes as we move to combined education, health and care plans
  • The increase in waste contract price and disposal targets with the cost of landfill and future related costs are escalating
  • Increases in refuse/recycling collection and disposal to reflect additional housing in the borough
  • The absorption of inflation for statutory planning fees
  • Additional cost of the reissue of Freedom Passes every five years, including any extra costs based on actual usage

Are there other ways the council can help to balance the budget?

We are constantly looking at ways we can generate and maximise income, examples include:
  • Promoting business in the borough which could generate income for the council
  • Considering increasing Council Tax levels
  • Building new homes
  • Investing in the borough to create employment opportunities
  • Looking at alternative investments including, for example, the acquisition of properties to generate income for the council
  • Reviewing the use of the council’s assets
  • Ensuring that those who are able to pay for services do pay

With these financial pressures can we continue Building a Better Bromley?

  • We updated and relaunched our Building a Better Bromley priorities. Our key partner organisations have signed up to help deliver this vision. Working this way becomes more and more important as resources and budgets shrink further. By working more closely with a range of organisations we can achieve more for less.
  • Local government will continue to face funding reductions and financial uncertainty into the future 
  • These challenging times mean we will all have to do things in a different way, take more responsibility for our families and communities to make sure those who need our services most get the help they need
  • We have a strong community in Bromley and it is this strength that will allow us to continue Building a Better Bromley and to support all our residents and communities and continue to encourage them to be strong and as self-sufficient as practicable
  • We remain determined to continue investing in the long-term well-being of the borough.  This includes attracting and retaining businesses and future plans include actively working with partners to secure a multi-million pound investment into high tech industrial and aviation business opportunities in Biggin Hill; supporting investments in the growth areas of the Cray Valley Business Corridor; a show piece four-star boutique hotel and restaurants at the Old Town Hall in Bromley and the £3.8 million improvement scheme for Beckenham  
  • It also includes investing in the future of our young people by supporting them to remain in education, by creating work experience opportunities, apprenticeships and mentoring
  • Volunteering has a proud tradition in Bromley.  We are working closely with partners, the voluntary sector and community groups to support and expand volunteering opportunities, including expanding our highly successful Friends initiatives, so we can keep our borough a good place to work and live
  • Key to continuing Building a Better Bromley will be strong support for the voluntary sector along with improved integration and communications across the council and with organisations in the private and public sector
  • Notwithstanding the unprecedented financial challenge, we will serve and speak up on behalf of our communities and aim to deliver high standards of service across all areas of our borough
  • As your council, we are determined to continue to work with you and our partners to continue Building a Better Bromley and keep this borough a great place to live, work and visit.