Safeguarding services for residents
There is no denying that it has been a difficult year. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought disruption, anxiety, stress, grief and unfortunately has brought a financial cost to Elmbridge Borough Council.
We take our responsibility as a community leader very seriously and now, more than ever, the meals we are delivering to the vulnerable, the grants we are paying to local businesses, the homeless people we are accommodating, the high streets we are supporting and the leisure facilities we are subsidising, are vitally important.
However, all of that comes at a cost. To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost Elmbridge Borough Council around £9M in lost income (eg car park charges), subsidies (eg the Xcel Leisure Complex), additional costs (eg staffing support for vulnerable residents), and it needs to be said, that the Government has so far failed to meet the undertakings it gave us to fully reimburse councils like ours for the millions of pounds we have spent in helping to manage the pandemic in our community.
We know this extraordinary financial impact is being felt across the country. The Chancellor in his recent Spending Review announced borrowing of nearly £400Bn and a contraction in the economy of 11.3%. There is no doubt the financial impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come and in Elmbridge we need to take steps to keep the council on its steady financial footing.
Thankfully, with hard work built on years of prudent budgeting and close management of our affairs, as well as bringing forward budget plans for next year, we are in a decent position to weather this particular storm, but difficult decisions still have to be made. This includes increasing charges in our car parks, our leisure facilities and our Centres for the Community. We do not make these decisions lightly but make them we must.
It is only by taking these decisions and planning carefully for modest increases in our income sources that we can continue to protect our vital services which, this year, proved to be a lifeline for many of our most vulnerable residents.
Of course, increasing charges is just one of the financial measures we must take to support our financial future. We will continue to lobby Government for additional financial support to off set our COVID-19 costs, we will make savings as much as we can throughout our services while ensuring we continue to provide such services to the standards that our residents expect and we will prudently manage our assets to ensure the best returns.
We have a statutory duty to set a balanced budget in advance of each financial year and the final budget for 2021/22 will be approved by Councillors in February 2021.
As Councillors we have a responsibility to our residents and I know Councillors from all political parties want what is best for the community and we will act collectively to safeguard what we can and make the right decisions for the future of this council and the vital services it provides.
Cllr Stuart Selleck - Leader, Elmbridge Borough Council, Cllr Mary Marshall - Deputy Leader, Elmbridge Borough Council, Cllr Janet Turner - Leader, Hinchley Wood Residents' Association, Cllr Chris Sadler - Portfolio Holder for Resources, Elmbridge Borough Council
Charges from January 2021
From January 2021, charges for parking, waste services, Leisure and Cultural Services, Community Support Services and Housing, will be as set out in the Cabinet Report of 18 November 2020 and approved by Council on 2 December 2020.