Bexley Council's cabinet has approved its budget for the year, including a number of savings, staffing reductions and a sharp tax increase, but the authority has been successfully "steered through a storm."

'Savings were necessary' to balance the budget following a very challenging year for the council, and the budget has been "designed to protect priority services and address the impact of Covid. The local authority also benefits from an effective bailout from the Government worth nearly £9 million.

As part of the budget, approved last night (February 22), a 1.99% Council Tax increase plus a 3% Adult Social Care Precept mean council tax will rise by a total of 4.99%, the maximum allowed without a local referendum.

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Other proposed aspects of the budget include job losses, which will save the council millions in wages, reducing opening hours for libraries and removing grants from six community libraries.

Councillor Teresa O'Neill OBE, Leader of the Council said: "The past year has been challenging for everyone and has had a dramatic impact on the Council's finances."

"Despite the challenges we have faced, we are still going strong.

"We continue to deliver good local services and improvements for the people who rely on us - including two new SEN schools and two new libraries - that will make life better for our residents."

The council said the budget aims to safeguard the essential services on which vulnerable residents rely, but includes savings, including staffing reductions.

Last year it was reported that the local authority was staring down a financial black hole.

"Savings were necessary to balance the Council’s budget, in large part because of the impact of the pandemic on its income and expenditure."

Bexley was one of four councils to secure a capitalisation order from the government allowing extra financial flexibility if it is needed 'to manage the significant financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic.'

Whilst it is only to be used if it proves necessary, the order is for £8.995m over two years, offering the council far greater flexibility.

To secure the extra flexibility from the government, the Council had to demonstrate that it had done everything possible to reduce its spending and is delivering local services efficiently.

Councillor David Leaf, the Council's Cabinet Member for Resources added: "We have steered the Council through a 'storm' that no one could have predicted, and we have a robust plan in place for the future.

"We will continue to stick to our principles, deliver the services people need and fight for our residents.

"We will be making our case to the government for fairer funding, because Bexley receives a raw deal compared to some of our neighbouring authorities."

The Cabinet's recommendations are subject to approval by the full Council, which meets on 3 March. Last night's meeting is available to view online.

Proposed changes to the service delivery model for children centres will be part of a separate consultation at some point this year.