Burnley Council announces its plan to balance the books

Burnley Town Hall

Burnley Town Hall

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Burnley Borough Council has developed a financial plan which will see more council services move online and “an increase in fees and charges”.

The context for the “Creating a Sustainable Future” plan is a set of ongoing financial pressures on local councils.

Burnley is particularly affected by the national government’s approach to Town Hall finances, and the plan states the council has faced “immense challenges”.

Burnley Council has already reduced its revenue budget by £11.6m. since 2010.

Coun. Wajid Khan, Burnley’s Executive member for Resources and Performance Management, said: “Burnley has not been treated fairly in the financial settlements for local councils which this national government has put in place. We will continue to argue loud and clear for fairer funding for councils like ours.

“At the same time, we recognise the reality of the situation we are in. We also take on board our responsibility to meet the challenges we face, and to make choices in line with the priorities of local people.

“By putting this plan in place, we have a framework for making decisions. It also means we have a degree of certainty about core elements of our finances, even though the situation remains very challenging.”

The council’s workforce has dropped from 591 to 235 – with 183 of those people being transferred to Burnley Leisure or Liberata.

Nevertheless, the council claims it has remained focused on strategic priorities, including economic growth, and has delivered major projects which have helped achieved private sector jobs growth.

A survey of budgets over recent years reveals the partnership with Liberata is saving the council around £800,000 a year; transferring leisure services to Burnley Leisure has saved running costs of around £400,000; the new street cleansing and waste contract with Urbaser has generated savings of nearly £600,000; and there has been a 45% reduction in senior management posts at the council since 2010.

Burnley Council’s current revenue budget is £15.2m. The plan estimates the council will have a gap between the resources it needs and the resources available to it of around £4m by 2020.

Part of Burnley’s response is to continue lobbying at national level for the funds the borough needs.

Burnley Council is also involved in setting up the Lancashire Combined Authority, which will focus on economic growth.

Success in attracting investment should build up business rates, which make up an increasingly important part of local government’s future funding.

The council has now set out four strategic themes which will shape how savings will be made and income generated, as well as continuing to provide priority services and work for the borough’s prosperity.

Theme one is service “transformation and digitisation” – which will see more council services move online.

“Empowerment” of council workers will see workers able to sort out more of their issues directly, with more responsibility for decision making and processing work.

The third strategic theme will see efforts to identify possible savings through financial management; appropriate increases to fees and charges; and new ways of raising revenue.

A review of the council’s needs and priorities makes up the fourth strategic theme.

This will consider the appropriate balance and relationships between those services the council is required to provide by law, and “discretionary services” which will be examined to see how they are delivering on the council’s strategic plan.

Creating a Sustainable Future, published on the Burnley Council website, will be submitted to the government as the council’s Efficiency Plan.

This will help to secure a definite four year Revenue Support Grant allocation which the government has already announced.

This means that £1.6m. of Revenue Support Grant will still be secure by 2019/20.

People can comment on the plan, either by emailing communications@burnley.gov.uk, or filling out the online survey.