Stoke-on-Trent City Council has today (Monday) launched budget proposals that aim to bring long-term sustainability to council services.
Budget proposals launched to bring long-term sustainability to council services
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has today (Monday) launched budget proposals that aim to bring long-term sustainability to council services – with a focus on economic growth, vital services for children and families, improved housing and neighbourhoods, as well as care and wellbeing services for adults of all ages.
The proposals mark the next stage in the delivery of the Stronger Together Vision and Strategy, with the emphasis on greater efficiency and productivity to protect frontline services. The proposals aim to save £14.4m during 2021 – 2022 and set out a rise in council tax of 4.99 per cent (of which 3% will be dedicated to adult social care) with a proposed net reduction of 50 posts at the council.
The budget gap is smaller than anticipated at earlier stages in the financial year with the city council using the last year to address a number of issues and put the organisation in a stronger financial position. This is as a result of extensive work behind the scenes to keep essential services running, extending support for communities during the pandemic and regular evaluation of services and demand for the future.
The proposals respond to a number of financial challenges facing the city council including increased demand for adult social care services and children services and the next step in improvement for these services, the response to covid-19 as well as contractual inflationary increases relating to nursing and care homes. In total, there will be an additional £17.5m of investment in these areas, underlining the council’s commitment to care for those who are most vulnerable.
The budget has been designed to support a transformation of council services so that the city council can radically reshape services to achieve higher quality, deliver greater value for money and become more responsive. This includes recognising changes in how residents access services, which have accelerated during the Coronavirus pandemic, and which will enable the council to better understand the changing needs and priorities of communities.
Government this year set out the expectation for local authorities to levy a three per cent council tax precept to directly support adult social care and more than 85 per cent of the potential core funding increase for 2021/22 is dependent on councils increasing council tax by up to 5 per cent. The council’s 4.99 per cent council tax increase breaks down as three per cent directly for adult social care to respond to the additional social care pressures being faced in the city and 1.99 per cent for supporting vulnerable families and people in Stoke-on-Trent. This would mean the majority of residents** for 2021/22 will only pay an additional 87p a week increase, equal to £45.17 for the year. This council tax remains the 8th lowest compared to 93 metropolitan and unitary councils and on average we have the 5th lowest average council tax per household.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “Due to the uncertain and changing environment in which all local authorities are now operating it is critically important that we continue to focus on stabilising our financial position, ensuring that we can secure value for money for residents. This consultation therefore sets out key areas of transformation that will be pursued over the next few years both to improve service delivery and generate the efficiencies needed to secure a strong and sustainable financial position.
“We take managing the council’s finances extremely seriously, recognising that 62 per cent of our budget is now spent on adults and children’s social care. Costs have gone up and demand continues to increase. We have also seen an increase in costs due to coronavirus, whilst our income from services such as gyms and parking has fallen.
“We never forget that most of our income comes from tax and rate-payers and we must spend wisely. We take every opportunity to make services more efficient so we can maximise the amount that goes to important front-line services. This is a year-round effort. We also continue to take a prudent approach to how we invest capital to ensure that any investments will improve our service offer or support regeneration and economic growth, and always with a focus on quality and value-for-money.
“This growing resourcefulness and adaptability has been demonstrated in the council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, in co-ordinating a citywide response and deliverable recovery plans. It has also illuminated the strength of our partnerships within the city. The council has not done this alone but with the support and leadership of an incredible network of public, business, voluntary, community and faith organisations that together represent the tremendous resilience, compassion and enterprise of our brilliant city.
“We all now hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight. We are gearing up to deliver a comprehensive Economic Renewal Plan to ensure that our post-Covid recovery goes far beyond just returning to where the city’s economy had risen to by March 2020 and I’m hugely optimistic about the year ahead. We will build back better and stronger, with exciting plans for integrated transport links and citywide high-speed broadband connectivity that will enable us to create a thriving economy that delivers increased jobs. We will make sure that all can benefit from those opportunities.
“Communities and residents are central to our proposals and I would urge people to tell us their views – 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 the city’s residents and taxpayers, and in previous years, input from residents has helped us adjust proposals accordingly.”