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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Measures approved to tackle gap in housing budget

A £6 million package of measures has been agreed by West Lancashire Borough Council to address a budget gap in its housing business plan.

The Council was facing a reduction in revenue from what it had previously been expecting as a change in Government policy means rents are being reduced by 1% every year until 2020. Previously the government’s framework formula stated that rents would increase by inflation plus 1% per year.

To begin the process of tackling this problem the Council took steps including making savings in its major housing refurbishment programme and actively managing staffing levels. The authority was also allowed to raise the rents in sheltered housing by 0.9 per cent, but it still faced a total budget shortfall of £7.95 million in its annual housing budgets over the next three years up to 2019/2020.

Over the summer of 2016, the Council consulted tenants on a series of measures to bridge the gap. These were:

  • Removal of the mains water replacement programme as there are no maintenance requirements at the current time
  • Removal of the specific programme to replace fencing and paving and replacing it with cyclical repairs from the overall revenue budget
  • Revising the Council’s Housing Disabled Adaptations policy to make better use of housing stock and provide for the needs of disabled people
  • Introduce a nominal charge for the gardening service of £5 per week for 26 weeks per year

Results of the consultation were brought to the Council meeting on Wednesday 19 October and the measures were approved by Councillors. This package totals £2.325 million savings in 2017/18, and a combined £6.155 million for the years up to 2019/2020.

These have been added to the measures agreed by the Council in July 2016, when the Council approved a number of budgetary proposals that have already been implemented and do not have any significant service implications. These include the deletion of a number of vacant posts and will save £825,000 in 2017/18, and a total of £3.453 million in the years up to 2020.

The measures bridge the gap in the Council’s finances and put the authority in a stronger position to tackle future challenges, such as the potential impact of the Government’s sale of higher value property initiative.

Councillor Jenny Patterson, portfolio holder for Housing and Landlord Services, said: “We believe these measures will minimise the effect on Council tenants having to tackle these financial issues. We are grateful to tenants who gave their views during the consultation and we took those views into account when making our decisions.

“The Council’s Housing Service provides excellent value for money and these measures put the Council in a stronger position to cope with future challenges.”

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