The new man in charge of the city’s purse strings has expressed his anger at finding a £2.4 million gap in the Council’s finances.
Councillor Mark Lowry, Cabinet Member for Finance said: “I’ve had my first meeting to review the city’s finances and was pretty angry to find that as the new Labour administration, we have inherited a £2.4 million overspend that we did not know about. That’s a substantial amount of money that could have been spent on fixing potholes for instance, that is simply not there. This is despite a council tax rise of nine per cent over the two years that the previous administration was in charge of the city’s finances.
“I’m acutely conscious that the council tax bill takes a big chunk out of each and every household’s budget every month. And I know that our less well-off households, those who are just getting by, feel this the most. That’s why I will be fighting from day one to make sure those bills stay as low as possible and that we balance our books.”
The Council has seen its revenue support grant from government fall from £76.6 million in 2013/14 to a projected figure of just £5.6 million in 2020/21. Although Plymouth is now part of a Devon-wide pilot scheme that allows local authorities to retain business rates it collects, it is not ‘a magic bullet’ to all budget pressures, Councillor Lowry said. He added: “I feel privileged to serve Plymouth again and will be tasking officers to look at ways of delivering services with a fresh pair of eyes to see how we can do things differently.
“I’d also welcome suggestions from the public and business about ideas that could generate income or save money.”
The Council is facing huge pressure on frontline services particularly with rising demand around homelessness, support for vulnerable adults and children and support for schools. Other challenges include a £1.3 million fall in its education services grant, a reduction of £405,000 in its public health grant and a further reduction of £129,000 in funding to administer housing benefit.
Councillor Lowry added the new administration will continue to press the government for a fair funding deal for the city to cover homelessness, housing, social care and education and to extend the business rates pilot for a further three years. To contact Councillor Lowry email him on Mark.Lowry@plymouth.gov.uk