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Exeter cuts on way as council loses £11 million

More of this on the way?

Expect to see more graffiti

High profile services like graffiti clearing and grass-cutting are set to be trimmed as part of Exeter City Council's attempt to balance its budget after a staggering £11 million shortfall caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Next week the council’s ruling executive next week will debate how to stay within current financial plans between now and April. The council needs to find savings of  £1.7million by then and then another £5.8million over following years.

Income losses and additional expenditure incurred during the crisis are estimated to total £11.19 million. Lost income is projected to be £8.56 million. Of that figure more than half, £4.57 million, is from a drop in expected car parking revenue.

Commercial rent income is expected to drop by £1.18 million in this financial year and there are heavy reductions in income from leisure, waste and visitor attractions, according to the report.
To offset the losses, the council has secured funds from a variety of sources, including a covid-19 grant from central government, use of the furlough scheme, repurposing earmarked reserves and use of what's called a general fund.

Among the reductions in spending being proposed are a freeze on vacant posts, suspension of The Citizen newspaper, no sponsorship of planned festivals and events, a significant reduction in agency staff and reductions in high-profile services like graffiti removal. All proposed savings will be subject to debate and agreement by members.

Council leader Phil Bialyk said: “There has been a lot of hard work that has gone into this emergency budget. We are obliged by government to balance our budget by the end of the year, and we have to make changes when you know the budget will be different.

“We’ve had to look at what we can stop doing for now, what we can delay and how we can save up to £1.7 million between now and the end of the year. We are not cutting services, but we are having to scale back. It may be that grass is not be cut as often as it currently is, for example, and there will be changes to other services like graffiti removal.But Exeter is in a much better place than many other authorities around the country, and I am confident that by working together we can pull through this.”

There are no direct redundancies as a result of the emergency budget. But there is the potential for redundancies as a result of some of the changes to services outlined in the medium term financial plan over the following two years, and the process to make those savings may begin before April 2021. The budget is on the council's website. It will be debated on 7 July.

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