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Gloucestershire Business News

Council forced to cut spending as funding drops 11 per cent

Cheltenham Borough council has warned it faces a huge challenge to balance the books because Government funding has been slashed.

It says it is facing difficult decisions about reducing spending in the coming year.

This week the council's draft budget was approved for public consultation and Cllr Rowena Hay, cabinet member for finance, said: "In the ten years from 2009/10 to 2019/20 our core government funding will have been cut by some £6.4m from £8.8m to £2.4m.

"In 2018/19, this core funding will reduce by 11.3% when compared to 2017/18.

"In response to the difficult national funding situation, our overriding financial strategy has been, and is, to drive down the council's costs. The aim is to hold down council tax as far as possible, now and in the longer term, while also protecting frontline services from cuts - an immensely challenging task in the present climate."

She added: "The key mechanism for carrying out this strategy is the Bridging the Gap (BtG) programme, which seeks to bring service costs in line with available funding. To date, it has been very successful in managing funding gaps, with over £12m generated from BtG work streams.

"The starting point for the 2018/19 budget has been a projected medium term financial strategy funding gap of £1.643m.

"Closing a gap of this size is a huge challenge for the council, but the challenge is being met by a proactive approach to identifying budget savings, carried out by the cabinet and the executive management team. This work has already made significant progress towards bridging the gap, having identified at this early stage potential savings and additional income of £783k, leaving £860k to find, assuming a £5 council tax increase is approved.

"The outcome of this budget has been based on a number of substantive consultations throughout the year and we would like to know the public's views on our strategy for closing the financial gap created by the significant cuts from central government."

The full council will be meeting to set the budget, taking into account feedback from the budget consultation process, on Monday 19 February.

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