Councillors have agreed a range of significant savings to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on Crawley Borough Council’s budget.
Despite grants from central government helping to cover part of the council’s costs tackling COVID this year, the council’s main sources of income have been hit hard by the economic impact, creating a budget gap of over £2m. This equates to a seventh of the council’s total net revenue expenditure.
While two-thirds of this gap has been closed through back-office efficiencies, councillors have been forced to decide where the remaining savings should be made.
Following a large public consultation, during which 1,200 residents gave their views on potential service changes, Crawley Borough Council’s Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet have jointly agreed savings proposals for the next council year.
While a move to fortnightly bin collections—the least popular option in the consultation—will not be progressed at this time, it’s expected to be an inevitable change in the medium term as new legislation around waste is introduced, as well as the need to increase recycling rates and reduce waste going to landfill.
On play, councillors agreed to the shift to a more flexible model of delivery, which is better targeted at the needs of the community.
This means that Cherry Lane and Waterlea Adventure Playgrounds will be converted into unsupervised play areas while Creasys Drive Adventure Playground in Broadfield and Millpond Adventure Playground in Bewbush will be closed. New capital funding will be allocated to bring forward alternative play provision in Broadfield and Bewbush.
Councillors also agreed to:
- Reduce the grant funding available for community and voluntary sector bids
- Close all five fee-charging ‘superloos’ in Crawley, leaving the nine free public toilets open around the town
- Support greater self-management by clubs and increase income from the hire of our fine turf pitches
- Price fees and charges more competitively
- Internal efficiency reviews to generate further savings.
These savings are necessary despite the redevelopment of the Town Hall site being set in the next few years to both generate significant new income for the council and reduce the council’s running costs.
Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said: “For six years, Crawley has stood alone in maintaining all our services, despite annual cuts to our grant. We’ve managed this by generating new income streams to make up for the money we’ve lost. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t an option in a pandemic, leaving us with no alternative to making savings.”
“We’ve listened to the public feedback on the options and tried to make savings as painless as possible, but ultimately you can’t cut a seventh of a council’s budget without it being felt somewhere.”
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of the Opposition, said: “Thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation that helped to inform us. Covid-19 has brought unprecedented financial challenges to local government and while there are parts of the budget that in normal times we would prefer not to do, we’ve all worked hard to come up with a budget that keeps the council on a sound financial footing and that will protect key services for Crawley residents.”