The ongoing difficult financial climate continues to put council budgets under severe pressure.
Inflation, increases in the cost of providing local services such as waste and housing, coupled with over a decade of reductions in central Government funding means that we now face a £3.8 million budget shortfall for 2024/25.
Councils in England face a funding gap of over £4 billion over the next two years and you can read more about the Local Government Associations ‘Save local services’ campaign.
Our Lead Cllr for Housing, Ruairi McCourt, explains the budget situation in the following video.
What does this mean for residents and businesses?
We’ve been working hard to save money through our Financial Stability Programme, and, in the past, we’ve used reserves to help fill the gaps in our budget, but this isn’t sustainable – once reserves are spent, they are gone.
Raising council tax or increasing charges too much could place an additional financial burden on many of our residents and businesses already struggling through the cost-of-living crisis.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be working to manage the situation in the best way we can. However, the reality of the situation means there will have to be changes to the way we deliver some services and reductions in some of the services we provide.
Despite this stark situation, we remain committed to putting our residents at the heart of all we do. We will focus on six key priorities – delivering affordable homes, creating a strong local economy, providing more effective services, empowering our people, strengthening our processes, aiming for financial stability, protecting our environment and tackling climate change.
We need to deliver a balanced budget over the medium term, and we need your help to do it, helping to put the Council’s finances on a robust footing for the future through our new ‘Fit for the Future’ programme, which will help to ensure our financial resilience over the coming years.
What services do we provide?
The chart below shows how the Council spends its money on the services we provide, with the gross expenditure budget for 2023/24 being £44.1m.
A large chunk of our £44 million budget is spent on our waste and recycling contract, but we also provide other local services such as support for the homeless, environmental health, leisure facilities, public toilets, street cleaning, dealing with littering, car parks and open spaces, council tax and housing benefit, and local planning applications.
These are all vital services that help support people and our economy across the district, but they all cost money to run, and we will have less money to run them.
Proposed savings and efficiencies
We need to address our £3.8m budget gap. We are aiming to make savings over the coming years from our new Fit for the Future programme, which we should generate savings of £3.3m next year. This still however leaves us having to use £0.5m from reserves to balance the budget.
If we are not able to identify efficiency savings, extra income, or budget reductions, we will have no choice but to use more of the Council’s reserves, which are rapidly reducing.
Service reductions will be a last resort, and we’ll protect our resident’s priorities by making efficiency savings and increasing our income wherever we can.
The survey contains questions regarding proposals for the closure of certain toilets across the district; a list of those facilities which will be impacted can be found on our Public toilets to close on a trial basis over the winter months webpage.
Similarly, there are proposals around changes to the grounds maintenance contract; however, it should be noted that many open spaces, especially those outside Bexhill, fall under the remit of the town and parish council’s and will not be affected by these proposals. You can view the list of potentially affected sites.
The current draft budget proposes increases in fees and charges where these are under the Council’s control.
Our proposals help us stick to the priorities that residents, businesses, and our partners have helped us set, while helping to address the budget gap we are facing.
The Council’s capital programme shows what we intend to spend on purchasing new assets and improving existing ones over the next five years. Over the period of our Medium-Term Financial Strategy we plan to invest more than £150m, funded by a mix of grants, capital receipts, reserves and borrowing.
How you can help – give your views
How do you think the council should manage this budget challenge? You can give your views during our budget consultation from Tuesday 7 November until Sunday 17 December. You can do that online or by post (just email or phone for a paper questionnaire to be posted to your address).
We’ll collate all the views we receive and report them to our main council meetings early next year. All views given will help us to decide on the best way forward – so your help will be greatly appreciated.
A print-ready copy of the Budget Consultation survey is available to download using the button below. When complete, you should post this to Budget Consultation, Rother District Council, Town Hall, Bexhill-on-Sea, TN39 3JX.
Large print and other versions of the printed questionnaire are available on request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate the version you require, the consultation you are enquiring about, and your postal address.
Over the coming months, the council will be working on its budget for the forthcoming financial year (2024/25). We will be holding key council meetings and consulting residents, businesses, and stakeholders. At each major step in the process, we’ll update you with the current news on our website and across our social media channels to keep you informed of the latest developments.
Any further questions?
Our Budget FAQ’s webpage may answer any questions you have. For more information, please see the FAQ’s at the bottom of this webpage.
Want to delve deeper into the details?
Read the full report – Medium Term Financial Strategy 2024/25 to 2027/28 (pages 3 to 46)
- Appendix 1: Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) – General Fund Summary Forecasts (page 47)
- Appendix 2: Savings Summary (page 48)
- Appendix 3: Capital Programme (page 49)
- Appendix 4: Fees and Charges (pages 50 to 74)
- Appendix 5: Risk Assessment (pages 75 to 77)
- Appendix 6: Sensitivity and Scenario Planning (pages 78 to 80)
- Appendix 7: Extract from the Overview and Scrutiny meeting of 16 October 2023 (pages 81 to 84)
Email submissions and responses should be sent to email@example.com.
Frequently Asked Questions from Those Answering the Consultations
Q: Why is the council in such a poor financial position?
The local government sector has seen funding increases of around 33% over the last 8 years. However, central government has focussed a significant proportion of this increase on areas such as adult and children’s social care, which are not areas that the Council has responsibility for. Our funding increase has only been based on a 2.5% increase over the same period and represents a real term cut which, when coupled with high inflation, and increasing costs of providing services, means we face one of the most challenging financial situations for many years.
Q: Why don’t you just use reserves to plug the gap?
In the past, we have used our reserves to help fill gaps in our budget. However, whilst this does help in the short term, the strategy is not sustainable – once reserves are spent, they are gone. If savings are not delivered and reserves continue to be used, they will fall below our recommended minimum level of £5m.
Q: Are you going to cut services?
The reality of the situation we face means that we will have to change the way we deliver some services, and we may have to reduce the level of others. Budget pressures including rising costs, inflation, and years of reductions in central government funding means that we face a scenario of trying to provide the same level of service with far less money.
Q: What services are going to be affected by cuts?
The Council has a legal duty to provide certain services, such as waste collection and the payment of benefits, which are often described as statutory services. There are then also a range of services which the Council can choose to deliver or not, these are called non-statutory or discretionary services, and include things such as the provision of public conveniences, cultural activities and sport and leisure facilities. Unfortunately when reductions have to be made it is often the discretionary service areas which have to be reduced first as the statutory services are protected.
No decisions have been made, and any proposals will be worked up and subject to public scrutiny over the coming weeks and months before we finally set our budget for 2024/25 at our budget meeting in February next year.
Q: Does this mean you’re going to increase council tax and charges?
We recognise that residents and businesses are struggling with the current cost-of-living crisis, so any future council tax increases, or raises in charging for services like garden waste for instance, will have to be very carefully considered before any decision is made.
Q: How is Council Tax divided up?
Although we collect your council tax, it is split between us, East Sussex County Council, the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner, the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and the town and parish councils. Less than nine pence in every £1 pound you pay in council tax goes towards Rother District Council services. An average household pays just 54 pence per day for all the services that Rother District Council provides.
Q: How much is Rother District Council’s part of the Council Tax?
Currently, our element of the council tax is £198.60 which equates to £3.82 a week or £16.55 a month for Rother District Council services. A 2.99 per cent increase would add just over 11 pence per week to a Band D property, meaning that homes in Band D would pay less than 55 pence per day for over 60 services which the Council provides.
Q: Why can’t you use the different government grants such as Levelling Up money, or Capital Programme funding to fill the void?
We’ve been extremely successful in gaining government grants for several exciting local projects, including the Levelling Up fund for the De La Warr Pavilion and Heart of Sidley initiatives, and Shared Prosperity Funding for various projects across the district. But these are ring-fenced grants that can only be used for these projects – we are not allowed to take any of the funding to use to offset budget shortfalls. We also have an ambitious Capital Programme designed to improve facilities and boost communities, but we are not allowed to use capital resources to help plug budget gaps.
Q: Why don’t you just cut back-office management and staff costs?
To provide the services that the district needs, we need the right level of staff to help us. We are constantly looking to see if we can save money, reduce central costs and at the same time protect front line services. We’ll continue with this strategy as we work to balance the books.
Q: Why don’t you save money by sharing services with other councils?
Sharing services is already being used by the council – for example we already share some services with Wealden District Council, and we’ve also proposed that some of our services are taken over by local town and parish councils. If we believe we can provide a high-quality level of service for local people at reduced costs by sharing that service, then of course we will look at that very seriously.