Ealing's Budget Shortfall Totals Nearly £28 Million

Maximum council tax rise and programme of savings needed to balance books

Cllr Bassam Mahfouz presented the council\'s budget plans to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Cllr Mahfouz presented the council's budget plans to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

February 9, 2021

Plans put forward by Ealing Council could require savings of £11 million and a rise in council tax of nearly five per cent in order to deliver a balanced budget.

Details of the proposals for 2021/22 were revealed along with the news that as of December 2020, the council was facing a budget gap of £27.7 million.

Finance cabinet member, Bassam Mahfouz, and chief finance officer Ross Brown, presented the plans to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 4 February , ahead of the cabinet’s meeting on 9 February . Council officers will recommend the top team approves the plans at the meeting.

Cllr Mahfouz said that consultations carried out with residents on what the budget should look like last year found their priority was to protect vulnerable residents, and that the council has acted on those wishes.

He said, “All the savings we have tabled in the set of proposals come from our Future Ealing proposals, and don’t have an adverse impact on the most vulnerable residents in our borough.

“Before the pandemic happened, we were hoping it would be a position we didn’t have to talk about putting forward savings, that we could talk about even more significant growth that I’d be tabling for the next financial year.

“Sadly Covid-19 has put a block on that.”

Mr Brown explained that the majority of the £11 million savings will be cost avoidance plans, with the bulk – £5.5 million – relating to children’s services, while a further £1.5 million will be to reduce cost pressures across waste services, by increasing recycling disposal and looking at contract management.

It was also highlighted that income expectations of council tax and business rates will be the biggest saver by raising £10 million.

The proposed council tax rise of 4.99 per cent will bring in the majority at £7 million. This means residents living in a Band D property would pay an extra £61.84 a year for the levy.

It was also revealed £22 million of investment was to be included in the budget.

And the authority’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which had seen a “huge surge” in working age claimants, is to be expanded to give Ealing care leavers exemption from paying council tax until their 25th birthday.

Councillor Gareth Shaw said that a “significant amount” of savings is actually passing the cost directly to residents, and raised concerns at a time of financial hardship whether residents will be too stretched to pay it.

But Mr Brown assured, “We do have lower income collected than previous years, that’s all wrapped up in our collection fund and form part of the budget estimates overall you see today.

“We are hopeful we will continue to collect reasonable amounts of income and proportionate to people who don’t find themselves in the CTR support.”

Among the £22m cash boost, plans included £9 million investment for children’s services, £5.1 million for road and pathway improvements and half a million to replace leisure facility equipment after the pandemic to ensure people stay active and healthy.

The plans will be reviewed by cabinet members on 9 February, and if agreed, will be recommended to full council for final approval.

Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter