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Boosting Income at Heart of Council's Enterprising Plan to Bridge Funding Gap

Plans for the Council to be more commercial in its activities are moving forward.

A draft strategy has been produced setting out how the Council proposes to secure the delivery of high quality, value for money services for residents in future by being more customer focused, innovative and entrepreneurial.

The framework highlights a vision to be a more sustainable and business-orientated council that generates service efficiencies and new income streams, while maximising existing revenue activities, with effective procurement processes, prudent investments and strategic asset development.

The Council is facing significant financial pressures in light of continuing reductions in central government funding coupled with greater demand for services and higher public expectations. Increasing income is a key part of its Medium Term Financial Strategy which estimates a budget shortfall of £5.8m over the next five years – a significant amount for an authority which has already seen its funding reduced by a third since 2010.

Potential investments could include renewable energy, such as solar farms, and a commercial loan portfolio including loans to social landlords within the borough to fund housing development. There is also a significant opportunity to capitalise on the Council’s ability to borrow at historically very low rates and acquire income-producing investments.

Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “Local government is facing a number of challenges with very limited resources so councils need to think creatively to deliver a significant proportion of the budget savings required over the next five years and reinvest in local services.

“To raise additional income there needs to be a fundamental change in how we do business. Thinking and acting in a more commercial way is just one of our approaches to protecting valuable frontline services, ensuring positive outcomes for residents, by reducing reliance on decreasing central funding and becoming more financially sustainable.

“Commercial activity isn’t new to the Council. It has a substantial commercial property portfolio. This new strategy provides an overarching plan for future activities, ensuring consistency, and access to the expertise needed to drive forward our commercial ambitions within a context of robust risk management.

“This is about taking a measured and balanced approach to making extra income – retaining clarity over social and economic objectives – by using our assets wisely to support local services for the long-term benefit of borough residents. Making every penny count is absolutely key.”

Other outcomes include stronger working relationships with public, private and third sector partners; workforce development and more efficient working practices through better use of digital technology.

The draft commercial strategy will be discussed by Cabinet which meets at 2pm on Wednesday, 16 October. If it’s approved, the Constitution Working Group will consider any changes to the constitution and a review of the Council’s commercial property portfolio will be carried out by advisers. Investment proposals would be proposed at a later date.

Last updated 9 October 2019

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