Wolverhampton City Council’s cabinet is set to launch a public consultation on options to address a projected budget deficit of £19.5m next year, in what is described as “the most significant financial challenge the council has faced”.
A report to be discussed at a meeting on Wednesday said the updated projected deficit assumes savings and income generation totalling £28.3m across 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Wolverhampton has already notified the government of its intention to reduce its workforce by up to 500 jobs this year and savings in 2018-19 will put a further 500 jobs at risk, the report said.
The council in July this year identified measures to generate £16.2m towards the 2019-20 budget, through one-off funding streams, council tax income, benefits from existing strategies being realised and directorate savings targets.
The cabinet report provided an update on progress. It said a recovery of overpaid VAT of £1.8m was £200,000 lower than expected and budget reductions of £5.4m had been identified across three directorates against a target of £5.5m.
The council has now devised proposals totalling £4.7m which can be implemented without the need for a formal budget consultation as they do not directly impact the public.
However, Wolverhampton’s cabinet will be asked to approve proposals amounting to £695,000 in 2019-20 for public consultation. These include £137,000 of savings in children’s mental health funding and £20,000 following a review of residents’ parking schemes, as well as £288,000 resulting from the integration of public health contracts to offset a £548,000 reduction in public health grant.
Cabinet will also consider a proposed council tax rise of 4.99% next year, including the 2% adult social care precept, which would generate an estimated additional £1m.
The report stated that the council would still be required to address a remaining £6m deficit next year, while the city has warned that overall it might need to find cuts totalling between £40m and £50m over the next five years.
Wolverhampton’s general fund reserve is £10m, the minimum balance specified in the council’s policy. The proposed measures to address the deficit do not include any use of reserves.
The council said its budget has already shrunk by more than £220m since 2010 and its workforce has been reduced by a third during that time.
Wolverhampton’s cabinet member for resources Louise Miles (Lab) said ongoing cuts in government funding and rising demand for services was “having an enormous impact on services and jobs in our city”.
She added: “This means we have no choice but to continue to find ways to save money and raise income.
“We want to engage with the community to manage our way through these cuts by working together and having an ongoing dialogue.”