Emergency budget 2020

Closed 1 Jul 2020

Opened 27 May 2020

Overview

You will all now be aware that the council, through no fault of its own, is facing a devastating projected shortfall of £50m in its finances as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Loss of vital funding
 
The impact of coronavirus means our airport company has not been receiving any air passenger income so has been unable to pass on money to the council which we rely upon so heavily to fund many of your vital frontline services. Airport income is about half of all of our commercial income. The other half comes from commercial rents, fees and charges and other trading income which is also massively reduced as a result of the crisis.

Over the last decade we have grown our commercial income to ensure that we could continue to deliver vital services in the face of massive drops in Government funding. On top of this, we will be receiving much less money through business rates and council tax, for this financial year. 

Due to our successful activities over the last decade, commercial income makes up a larger proportion of our revenue than council tax to fund vital council services to our residents. While almost all commercial organisations up and down the country have had a reduction in revenue due to the crisis, we are in a position where we still need to continue to deliver services to you.

Campaigning for government funding

We have already repeatedly called on central government to provide adequate emergency funding, but so far these pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

However if this money is not forthcoming we are compelled to consider even more extreme savings measures to avoid the possibility of bankruptcy, which itself would have an even more destructive impact on services.

Read here about our plea to the government to provide the council with emergency and fair funding to help us through this crisis and lobbying through the regional and national media.

Many of you in the community are deeply concerned and have started an important petition to the government asking for emergency funding to avert what will be a disaster for the whole town. Please take time to sign it and pass it to others so together we can draw attention to the serious situation in which we find ourselves.

Drastic cuts on the horizon

By law we have to produce and deliver a balanced budget. While we have financial contingencies in place meaning we don’t have to take the full £50m we’ve lost out of our budget, plans are now underway to prepare an emergency budget this summer where we will need to take £22m out. If we have to do this, we will be forced to make extremely difficult cuts to key services, unless our request for immediate cash is successful.

To even consider withdrawing vital support to so many of you is deeply distressing for me and my fellow councillors, but the reality of the situation will force us to make decisions which would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

See here Chief Executive Robin Porter and Councillors Hazel Simmons and Andy Malcolm, addressing the budget challenges we are currently facing and answering some questions and suggestions sent in by the public. 

 

Why We Are Consulting

Money-saving suggestions

In response to our request for money-saving suggestions many of you have already sent us your ideas. Thank you for this, as it shows how much you care and that we are rising to this vast challenge as a whole town. Many of the ideas are being seriously considered. You can view some of these and our responses to them in the document below.

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Our ideas for making the required savings

As promised previously, I am now in a position to be able to share some of the options we are considering.

We believe a great deal of savings can be made through efficiencies that won’t affect you.

Internal efficiency

In the past few years we have significantly streamlined many of our back-office functions and by continuing this process we believe we can generate further savings of up to £9m. Possibilities include:

  • introducing more efficient payment mechanisms
  • digitalising some of our internal manual processes
  • reviewing our contracts across the organisation to increase value for money
  • savings from building closures
  • proposals to bring in more income
  • reviewing the council’s overall staffing structure and size- including senior management
  • expanding successful services we provide to other organisations for profit
  • not filling our currently vacant posts
  • voluntary staff redundancy scheme
  • allowing our staff to buy additional annual leave which would raise some additional income

Public facing options

Regrettably a number of the changes we are having to consider will impact you, some significantly.

The proposals which will most impact the public include:

  • a new customer services model reducing face to face contact, except for our most vulnerable residents
  • a review of the council tax support scheme
  • reductions in neighbourhood enforcement, public protection services and highways maintenance
  • introducing charging for green waste collection
  • energy savings on street lights
  • a reduction in adult social care and home care funding
  • reduced funding for key public health and mental health support services
  • a review of the way we support travel for adults and children who require it
  • reductions in funding for school improvement, youth advice and early years services

The reality is that we are forced to look at all areas of council spending, especially those non-statutory services which have survived the years of austerity due to the success of the airport. Our airport company has been able to pay us an increasing revenue each year to fund services before Covid-19 hit, rising from £7m in 2013 to £27m last year.

Cllr Hazel Simmons said “We will, of course, still need to consult thoroughly on some of the proposals and are absolutely committed to limiting the effect they have. And I want people to still be assured that despite reductions in all areas of council spending, including areas such as children’s and adult’s services, our most vulnerable children, families and adults will still have access to the support they need. 

More information on the savings proposals and the council's emergency budget can be found at the bottom of this page under 'related documents'.

Send us your thoughts and other ideas

While proposals have been published, we continue our search for ways to balance the budget I am still very keen to get your views on this unprecedented budget challenge and the ideas we are considering.  More importantly, keep sending in your suggestions. I can guarantee that every idea, however insignificant it may seem to you, will be considered. Please send your thoughts and ideas to emergencybudget@luton.gov.uk or simply use the online form by clicking on the link in the box below.

Make your voice heard

The last thing I want to do is be involved in making cuts that affect you and those you love and care for, but unless we get the money we need from the government, sadly that is what we will have to do.

Can I therefore urge you once again to sign this community petition and make your voice heard?

Please ask family, friends and neighbours to do so as well and fight for the future of the town we care so much about. It takes less than two minutes and will show central government the strength of feeling in Luton over this situation.

What happens next?

Please take this opportunity to comment on the proposals and continue sending in your savings ideas before any decisions are taken by full council on 14 July.

The deadline for making comments has been changed to 1 July to allow the report to be published with emergency budget papers to aid councillors make decisions at the meeting.

Hazel Simmons, MBE
Leader Luton Council

If you would like to be notified of any updates on the emergency budget proposals, sign up to eLuton, the council's digital newsletter.

 

What Happens Next

We plan to publish our full set of proposed savings next month and you will have further opportunities to comment before any decisions are taken by full council on 14 July.

Please continue sending in your savings suggestions by emailing emergencybudget@luton.gov.uk or by completing the online form!

If you would like to be notified of any updates on the emergency budget, sign up to eLuton, the council's digital newsletter.

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