By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham City Council’s officers have recommended the authority goes ahead with the majority of its proposed sweeping cuts to services to fill a £53m hole in its future budget.
The council issued a Section 114 notice in November, effectively declaring bankruptcy, because of another £23m it must already save by March this year.
It will then need to work to save another £53m for the 12 months after that, and has proposed sweeping cuts to youth services, community centres, the libraries service and public transport to cover this gap.
And the likely size and scale of the financial challenge facing the Labour-led authority further down the line is expected to reach a gap of £68.7m in the financial year starting April 2025, before then rising to a cumulative total of £171.7m by 2027 to 2028.
In total 554 full time equivalent jobs could be lost in the current cuts planned, while a further council tax rise of five per cent has been proposed.
A consultation on the plans ran for a number of weeks between December and January, during which more than 5,400 people responded.
Ahead of an Executive Board meeting on February 13, officers have said the council will now need to go ahead with the budget savings initially set out “to ensure its continued financial sustainability”.
However, some changes have been suggested as a result, including keeping current Linkbus services by using alternative funding sources.
Funding for the Medilink service will be removed from April 2025 but the council says it will work with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to develop an alternative operating model for the service.
Public transport infrastructure, including the Queens Drive and Racecourse Park & Ride sites, will be retained by using alternative funding sources, subject to review in the wider region and the emerging East Midlands Combined County Authority from 2025.
Concessionary fares will be reviewed in conjunction with the wider region and the emerging Combined Authority to “ensure a consistency of approach”, while efficiencies will be created within smart ticketing and the removal Robin Hood ticket machines.
In the consultation there was also strong opposition to a review of green spaces, and as a result implementation will be amended, including a budget reduction for the maintenance of the developing Broadmarsh Green Heart.
In terms of the libraries service, the consultation concluded people could not make an informed decision based on the information available, having only been told a saving of £1.5m is proposed at present, with no specifics.
“The responses from this initial budget consultation will help inform and
develop the range of options for further public consultation,” documents say.
On the item about charges for the Greyhound Street public toilets, concerns were raised it would be “unfair to the growing number of homeless people and those that struggle with incontinence” while some respondents also referred to public toilets as a “human right”.
It has also been proposed the Jackdawe homecare service for those living with dementia should close and be outsourced alongside the Barkla Close service.
Documents add officers will seek to secure services which are high quality and safe for service users.
With some proposals, such as the permanent closure of the Old Market Square fountains, there is “no further ability to mitigate the impact”.
Even with the proposed savings, totalling £36.4m, the authority says it cannot fill the £53m budget gap out of a total general fund budget of £357m.
The council is therefore relying on Exceptional Financial Support (EFS) from the Government.
The requested emergency funding would be split into up to £25m for the current year, and up to £40m for the next.
It will likely be in the form of loans and special permission to raise money from council assets to spend it on day-to-day operational costs, rather than a grant.
“The significance of the need to rely on substantial amounts of EFS should not be underestimated and although this allows the council to set a balance budget in year it sets a significantly higher hurdle to achieve in 2025/26,” documents say.
The majority of pressures have been put down to reduced Government funding, significant demand and rising costs for social care and homelessness support and a nationally-agreed pay rise.
Furthermore, the council could not rely on reserves because it only has £14.6m in general fund reserves.
The collapse of Robin Hood Energy and unlawful spending of Housing Revenue Account money have been cited as one reason for the lack of reserves.
The planned cuts will now go to an executive board for councillor approval next Tuesday (February 13).
A final budget will not be approved until a Full Council meeting in March.