Council still facing £65m five-year budget gap

Staffing cuts and day care centre closure being considered as council’s annual debt repayments rise above £26m, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Civic Centre

Councillors have raised concerns over the impact of planned savings measures as Enfield Council chiefs work to close a £65million five-year budget gap.

Staff reductions are being planned and at least one day care centre could close, while residents are set to pay higher council tax and increased fees for some services such as garden waste collections.

Soaring inflation accounted for around half of the council’s £40m budget gap for the 2023/24 financial year which was initially forecast in October.

New powers allowing local authorities to hike council tax by up to 4.99%, extra government funding, and £15m of planned savings, have since reduced the budget gap to £5.3m.  The council expects to close it before the end of the current financial year but, despite these extra measures, the forecast budget gap up to 2027/28 stands at £65.5m.

The latest draft budget plans were presented to a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Monday. Tim Leaver, cabinet member for finance, said the budget was drawn up against a backdrop of 10% inflation and higher interest rates, coupled with “gross mismanagement of the economy and lack of direction from the government”.

He added that some manifesto commitments – including £2.4m to recruit 15 community support officers to help tackle local crime and antisocial behaviour – formed part of a budget that was “balanced” and “meets the priorities of the residents of Enfield that we were elected on”.

James Newman, director of corporate finance, said the council had “continued to invest in core statutory services for vulnerable people in the borough”, and the 2023/24 budget would see a “net increase of just under £9m for adult social care and just over £5.5m for children’s social care and education”.

Can you help us? Our membership scheme has many different options, starting from £3 per month, depending on your ability to contribute. Rewards include having a copy of the paper posted to you every month. Local businesses and charities can also sign up and, from as little as £10 per month, access discounts on advertising

Under questioning from Labour committee chair Margaret Greer about savings and efficiencies Tony Theodoulou, the council’s executive director of people, said the council was looking to reduce care costs by “keeping people independent for as long as possible”, partly by using “assistive technology” to allow them to stay in their homes.

This story is published by Enfield Dispatch, Enfield's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Tony added that a 5% reduction in adult social care staffing – achieved by changing some roles and deleting vacant posts – would save around £800,000. The council is also looking to reduce the number of agency workers it employs, he explained.

Under questioning from Conservative member Edward Smith, Tony revealed that at least one day care centre may have to be closed as part of the council’s savings plans.

In response to Labour panel member Nawshad Ali, finance chief Fay Hammond said the council had invested £41m in adults’ and children’s services since 2018 to meet growing demand and a £3m contingency budget was available to deal with any unexpected pressures.

In response to a question by Conservative panel member James Hockney, officers revealed an extra £3m from the council’s revenue budget, which is used to fund key services, would be used to pay down debt during 2023/24. This will push up total repayments on the £1billion debt to £26.6m next year.

To raise an extra £380,000 next year the council plans to hike fees and charges for a number services, which the budget report states is related to inflationary increases.

Cllr Hockney said this would have a “huge impact on a very wide range of people”, particularly sports clubs and community groups, and he did not understand why the council could not reduce the amount it pays on consultants and solicitors to avoid “heaping on costs to residents”.

In response, Cllr Leaver said the council had also been hit by the cost-of-living crisis and there had been a “modest increase” in some fees and charges after they were reviewed on a “case-by-case basis”. Fay added that the council had asked every service to save money, but the council still incurred legal costs.

Conservative Maria Alexandrou asked how plans to increase charges for residential garden waste collections, from £65 to £80 per year, fitted in with the council’s green agenda. Sarah Cary, executive director of place, replied that the council was making additional, larger recycling bins free of charge, and that most people who could not afford the green bin costs were likely to use composting.

Edward Smith, another Conservative member, said fees and charges seemed to have increased by 12% in general but that not enough care had been taken in relation to “the fees that will actually impact on individual residents”, such as footway crossovers, allotments and burial costs. Fay replied that the increases reflected staff, energy and inflationary costs to the council.

The draft budget will be presented to the council’s cabinet on Wednesday before being sent to full council for approval in February.

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month. £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.  

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or yearly 

More Information about donations