Plans that aim to bring long-term sustainability to council services, to provide investment in social care to protect vulnerable residents.
As well as provide investment in housing and infrastructure to grow the city were agreed at meetings of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet and full council earlier today (Friday).
The meetings followed the adjournment of a full council debate last Thursday (27 February), to allow time for alternative budget proposals to be considered. Councillors at last week’s meeting had voted against the original proposals.
Councillors have now agreed a budget for 2020-21, ahead of a statutory deadline of 11 March, with the following amendments:
- The removal of a proposal to review the terms and conditions of staff across the council, reducing the total savings proposals by £934,000.
- Filling this gap by reducing the amount of money to be put into the council’s general reserves in 2020-21 by £934,000.
- That sustainable ongoing savings proposals totalling £934,000 are developed and consulted on over the next year to replace the intended contribution to reserves.
- That a commitment is given to increase the general reserve to the planned level of £11m to support the financial resilience and sustainability of the city council.
Councillors voted in favour of the amendments, and these now go forward as part of the agreed budget for 2020/21. As a result it means that:
- The overall savings total has been reduced by £934,000 from £9.2m to £8.3m.
- The planned contribution to the general reserve has been reduced for 2020-21 from £5m to £4m.
- The planned level of general reserve held in 2020-21 will be reduced from £11m to £10m.
Through the agreed budget, council tax will rise by 3.99 per cent, 1.99 per cent of which will go towards supporting vulnerable families and people in Stoke-on-Trent while the remaining two per cent increase will be for adult social care to respond to additional social care pressures.
The budget will see a record £139.8 million spent on adult and children’s services in the city in the next 12 months. Adult and children’s services account for 61 per cent of the overall budget of the city council.
Agreement was also given for £336m of additional investment in an ambitious capital programme up to 2025.
In a report to the council meeting, Section 151 officer Nick Edmonds said: “Despite the challenges presented, my conclusion is that the budget is legal, robust and sustainable. The council has a proven track record of delivery of significant savings each year, over a number of years. This has been achieved through robust financial management, strict budgetary control and the on-going monitoring of both savings and investment delivery plans. Where savings have not been achieved alternative savings have been delivered.
“The use of reserves to support permanent savings must only ever be seen as a one-off temporary measure and must not be used as a substitute for the delivery of ongoing sustainable alternatives. The city council must take the steps necessary and the difficult decisions required over the coming financial year to ensure savings are delivered as planned to provide a viable alternative to the use of reserves.”
Council leader Cllr Abi Brown said: ‘I am pleased that these plans have been agreed, it means that we have a clear budget for 2020/21. It’s been no secret that we, alongside all of local government, are operating in challenging times. We have to set a balanced budget yet we are experiencing more demand than ever before. Children are our number one priority and we have to ensure that we look after the 924 children in our care. This budget sees record levels of investment in supporting the most vulnerable in our city with over 60 per cent of our budget now being spent on social care.
“We have left no stone unturned in considering how we can deliver services in other ways. Consultation has played a critical part in helping us to shape our plans.
“We now need to look again at further alternatives to ensure we can redress the contribution to reserves. This is about good financial management and delivering a balance between providing statutory services and meeting rising demand. At the same time our intention is to continue with our proven economic growth strategy and to ensure we move forward with our ambitions for Stoke-on-Trent.
“More jobs and homes are being secured in Stoke-on-Trent than ever before through our plans and as a result we have secured an extra £2m of council tax and business rates over and above our original projections with an extra £1.4m expected in 2020/21. This means we can better provide the services we know residents value, as well as addressing issues that people tell us are important to them. Confidence is growing in Stoke-on-Trent and people are seeing that we are a city on the up.”
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