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Open dialogue with government on council’s financial position

Published: Tuesday, 24th October 2023

City leaders yesterday (Monday) met with the local government minister to discuss a way forward to resolve the authority’s recent financial challenges.

At the meeting, Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Jane Ashworth explained to minister Lee Rowley MP that her administration has worked since May to reduce an inherited budget deficit down to £8.5m, but faces significant pressures over the next year due to spiralling children’s social care costs.

Last year (2022-23) these pressures included an overspend of £20m on children’s social care – 25 per cent over its budget, despite the budget increasing by £8.7m from the previous year.

Having met with the minister, talks are ongoing to secure the current financial position and transition to a preventative, early intervention and early help model for families to better meet their needs.

Councillor Ashworth said: “We explained to the minister the very careful and measured approach that has been taken to review all of the council’s spend in response to the serious and sombre situation we inherited in balancing the books.

“It is clear that a more sustainable model of care is needed to support our families and children.

“There is no secret action plan that some people have suggested there is recently, we do have a thorough to-do list which leaves no stone unturned in tackling the severe financial challenges we face in delivering a balanced budget and providing sustainable services our residents want and need. 

“We will continue to liaise with the government in a spirit of openness.”

Local MPs Jo Gideon and Jonathan Gullis were in attendance at the meeting and spoke in favour of the council’s request.