Budget proposes new record investment in social care to support people in greatest need
A consultation has launched today (Friday) on budget proposals that will set a new record investment into services that support vulnerable children and adults in the city.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has published proposals that will potentially see a total of £178.5m spent on children’s and adults’ social care in 2023/24, on services that protect and support people most in need. It represents a new year-on-year record investment into services for vulnerable people, after a £154.4m investment last year and a £152.5m investment in 2021/22.
Under the consultation, it is proposed that council tax will increase by 4.99 per cent – two per cent of which will support adult social care, and 2.99 per cent will support further services for vulnerable people.
The proposals would see the vast majority of residents* pay an additional 94p a week in council tax, equal to £48.84 for the year. Council tax in the city remains the eighth lowest compared to 93 metropolitan and unitary authorities in the country, and city residents pay the second lowest average council tax per household.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “Demand for social care services in our city has never been higher. We have a responsibility as an authority to support people who need our help the most. The year-on-year record levels of investment is in direct response to this demand. This year it is supported by specific government funding for social care and a precept on council tax. This funding will help us to continue to support around 1,000 children who are in the care of the authority, it will help us to deliver home care to vulnerable adults, it will help us to support people with multiple and complex needs and it will help us to further invest in supporting patients’ discharge from hospital.
“We take our responsibility to manage public money very seriously and make decisions on how it is spent to support residents, businesses and communities across Stoke-on-Trent. If agreed, these proposals will see 62p out of every £1 spent on social care services.”
The proposals will see a total of £6.9m of savings consulted on to support the delivery of services in ways that are more efficient and sustainable as the needs of residents and the city change. A further proposed £4.6m of savings will not form part of the public consultation as they will not impact on frontline service delivery.
The proposals come as the council has helped to lead work in the city to support residents and businesses through a cost of living crisis, with rising fuel bills and inflation currently hitting a peak of 11 per cent. The Stronger Together Through Winter campaign, which launched last October, has seen the council work in partnership with the voluntary and community sector to spend around £3m on a wide range of direct support for households, including:
• Distributing food vouchers to over 16,000 children in the city.
• Allocating an additional £300,000 in food and fuel vouchers for local charities to distribute to families over the winter.
• Identifying 55 welcoming spaces in communities across the city, leading by example in making all council-run libraries place where residents can visit, charge devices, seek advice in warm, social settings.
• Supporting the delivery of 140 holiday activities, creating more than 6,600 opportunities for children and families across the city over the festive break.
• Working with voluntary sector organisation VAST to develop a dedicated online portal at www.sottogether.vast.org.uk which provides a single point of information on a wide range of individual support, financial support, mental health support and wider community activities.
The authority has also set out clear priorities for investment in and support for the growth of the city and supporting people’s needs as they change through their lifetime. The authority has clear strategies in place that have been backed by public consultation, including detailed plans to support housing needs with a focus on older people’s housing including the opening of the new Rialto Court complex in Fenton in early 2023, and with the city’s housing priorities backed by a unique partnership with Homes England to bring external, national resources to the city. The authority has a clear strategy in place to improve transport links across Stoke-on-Trent, with a commitment to sustainable travel and reducing congestion, and the launch of the multi-million pound Etruria Valley Link Road in the coming weeks which will open up the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone and take road haulage off the A500 and away from routes into the city centre. The authority has spelt out how the city’s impressive cultural credentials can be developed, with investment opportunities into the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. And the authority will continue to deliver major Levelling Up projects which are already seeing a landmark site next to Stoke Station transformed into a new urban community at the Goods Yard, and land preparation works underway for the first phase of development at Etruscan Square in the city centre.
Councillor Brown said: “There is no doubt that as a city we are at a critical juncture, with the cost of living crisis and winter pressures impacting on residents and communities.
“Unfortunately as an authority we are not immune to these pressures either; high inflation impacts on the money we spend and our ability to deliver services. But we cannot allow financial pressures to derail our exciting regeneration projects and deprive our city of the investment, jobs and opportunities that they will bring.
“We are committed to making the best use of our resources, prioritising the protection of the vulnerable and ensuring that people and businesses receive timely advice and support where possible.
“We now want to hear people’s views on our proposals. We want to know what people think and to share with us any ideas for alternative proposals. We are working hard to make sure we do the right things for residents and taxpayers, and in previous years input from residents has helped us adjust proposals accordingly.”