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Lancaster City Council sets its 2023/24 budget

Protecting frontline services while setting the foundations for a sustainable financial future is at the heart of Lancaster City Council’s budget for 2023/24, which was set on Wednesday (February 22).

Like many local authorities, the city council is battling against unprecedented pressures of steep increases in its operating costs, increasing demand for services, and below inflation funding from the Government.

Immediate savings of £2.4million have been agreed for 2023/24. Even with these savings, it’s estimated that by 2026/27 the budget gap (income versus planned expenditure) could exceed £5M.

The budget gives priority to protecting essential frontline services such as waste collection, street cleaning, and maintaining parks, beaches and open spaces.

It will also allow the council to continue to support communities, to ensure access to services for those most in need, and to work in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the community. 

Councillor Anne Whitehead, cabinet member with responsibility for finance, explained: “Setting a budget is always difficult but this year has been especially tough.

“In common with other public bodies we were faced with unpalatable choices. Because we have less money coming in, we have less to spend, which inevitably has meant that some services we would have wanted to maintain or expand have had to be scaled back or ended completely.

“We also see this as an opportunity to think innovatively about the ways in which services can be transformed in line with what our residents need.

“I know that some people will be disappointed at some of the choices we’ve made, but unless we cut back in some areas, we just won’t be able to afford to fund vital frontline services.”

The areas where savings will be made include:

•       A new senior leadership structure to reduce management costs, saving around £450k a year

•       Deletion of vacant posts and efficiencies in back office support functions, saving around £500k a year

•       Comprehensive review of the council’s land and buildings, minimising energy and maintenance costs, saving around £400k a year

•       Transforming visitor information services to save around £250k a year. This will mean the closure of the physical Visitor Information Centres in Lancaster and Morecambe, but increased provision in online information and arranging for officers working in other public venues to provide visitor advice. Discussions will be had with other organisations about where and how visitor information could be provided in venues other than those owned and run by the council.

•       Reducing opening hours and revising the operating model for the Lancaster City Council’s museums in Lancaster, saving around £300k a year. In the longer-term, a more fundamental review will take place to revamp provision to ensure the educational and community benefits provided by the museums are maximised. The council will work with key stakeholders including the Museums Friends Groups to help shape their future.

•       Moving the council’s business and skills support function to a partnering model, saving around £200k a year

Previous proposals have also been revised to allow the Platform in Morecambe to remain open until April 2024, with discussions taking place with external parties who might be interested in taking on its future operation.

The council has already set next year’s increase in Council Tax at 2.99%, an average of £7.23 a year, or 14p a week, for a Band D property.

As 80% of the district's homes are in the lowest bands (A to C) the actual increase will be even lower for the majority of households.

The city council sets and controls around 11.5% of the total Council Tax bill paid by residents. The remainder is controlled by Lancashire County Council (73%), Lancashire Police Authority (11.5%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%), which have increased their precepts as follows:

Lancashire County Council: 3.99%
Lancashire Police Authority: 6.34%
Lancashire Combined Fire Authority: 6.47%

In addition, residents living in areas with a parish council pay an additional precept to their parish council.

The council has already agreed to continue 100% council tax support for those on the lowest incomes and most affected by the cost of living crisis, one of the few local authorities in England to do so.

Last updated: 24 February 2023

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