Cabinet members have launched their budget proposals highlighting a continued growth in the city’s economy for protecting important council services.
This includes investing in supporting vulnerable people and limiting council tax increases for the coming year.
The authority has today (Monday) launched a consultation on its budget for 2019/20 which shows that a continued increase in the number of businesses and homes within the city means it has been able to once again prioritise investment in adult’s and children’s social services. The approach has been pinpointed as showing signs that the council’s growth strategy in transforming the city and raising aspirations is working.
Under the proposals, more money will be invested in social services to help vulnerable people to live their lives well, accounting for more than 60 per cent of the total budget – £126.6m.
The proposals are based on a council tax rise of 2.99 per cent – of which one per cent of this year’s increase will be dedicated to adult social care services, with the remainder targeted at children’s social care. This equates to 49p per week*.
The plans to increase the council’s spending in these important areas comes at a time when the amount of savings the authority has made over the last eight years has risen to £194m – having seen a 28 per cent cut in the authority’s spending power between 2010/11 and 2017/18. Over the three years of the budget strategy the council’s main government grant has reduced by £26m.
Council leader Ann James said: “All local authorities across the country have been operating under incredibly difficult financial pressures for many years now, but in Stoke-on-Trent we have taken a planned approach to bring stability, invest wisely and create the right conditions for our city to prosper. It is paying off. Our growth strategy is delivering.
“Our budget proposals are the third year of a financial plan which has been centred on continuing to provide essential services to residents, supporting the growth of the city’s economy and providing opportunities for local people and businesses to succeed.
“By developing our budget over a three-year period, we have been able to plan the services we can deliver with more stability and certainty than in previous years. We have offset the impact of the savings we have needed to make through reductions in government grants by building new houses and attracting more businesses into the city. This has increased our tax base. It means we are moving in the right direction to become more financially self-sustainable. At the same time, our growth strategy is transforming the city, physically regenerating our towns and city centre, demonstrating our ambition and raising aspirations.
“We are also continuing to provide life-changing support for older people, children in care and people with disabilities. This accounts for the largest part of our spending, and demand in these areas continues to rise in line with the rest of the country.”
Under the refreshed budget plans, the council is also consulting on £8m of savings, with half of that amount already identified last year. The savings required are to address additional demands for services, employee costs and funding adjustments. The proposals also show how a net total of fewer than five jobs will go overall at the authority – some of them back office and management posts.
As part of the budget refresh, proposals will see £3.3m invested in youth provision and £2.5m invested in creating a homeless hub, facilities that will support people across the city. A total of £5m is to be invested in clearing and transforming the eyesore East/West Precinct in the city centre. The authority is also taking a leading role in building new houses across the city, including at its seven housing zones and through having secured £10m of government money to kick-start derelict and disused sites in Burslem. The council is also building city centre apartments and work to create a four-star Hilton Garden Inn hotel in the city centre continues to gather pace. More money is being generated through more people paying council tax and business rates – and this money is being invested into services.
The council’s successful Community Investment Fund has seen local groups secure £1.7m of projects to help make a real difference to local people, from fixing roofs in community centres to providing new kitchens for church groups, to musical instruments for a brass band and new facilities for ladsanddads football groups. A further £1.3m will be allocated before the end of the current financial year.
Deputy council leader Abi Brown, cabinet member for finance and partnerships, said: “We are continuing to work hard to deliver for the people of Stoke-on-Trent right across the six towns, to strike the right balance between supporting people to fulfil their potential, supporting the vulnerable to live their lives well and investing in a future that delivers a prosperous city for all.
“We are committed to finding innovative ways to deliver the services that our residents need, to invest in our city, and create the right conditions to bring jobs and sustained economic growth.
“We are investing in all six of our towns and in communities, supporting grass roots clubs and groups. We are investing in historic town halls, ensuring that residents have access to the services they need with facilities that can be real focal points for communities.
“Our plans to invest money for a return are working and as a result we are able to offset some of the budget pressures we are facing. There are still difficult decisions to take, and we urge people to have their say on these proposals.”
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