Early savings help cushion cuts and fund extra investments
Telford & Wrekin Council last year outstripped its own budget savings target despite continuing cuts in Government grant.
This and other measures have also helped cushion cuts in the key areas of adult social care and looked-after children, while allowing a series of one-off investments to go ahead.
This was achieved as the Council prepares itself for a further five years of extreme financial difficulties as the Government’s austerity programme continues.
Cabinet member for Finance Lee Carter explains what this means
Decisive early steps to make savings has enabled the Council to meet the most challenging financial circumstances that it has ever faced in a planned way and to do all that it can to protect front line services so far.
This will help to fund a range of important initiatives for longer than planned such as the Pride in Your Community programme . These initiatives include:
• £3.25 million draw-down budget to support Adults Social Care and Children’s services
• Further resources to secure income and maintain Parish Environmental Teams (PETs) with town and parish councils. These currently cover around half the borough’s population and make the areas with a PET team even cleaner and greener as well as creating around 50 apprentice posts until 2019
• Extending the Council’s initiatives to tackle unemployment in the borough for another two years. The Job Box initiative has already significantly reduced youth unemployment below the national and regional averages over the last year
• Supporting “invest to save” initiatives that will help the council to recoup savings or new income for many years to come – for example the Council’s solar farm which after covering all its costs will generate £150,000 a year to support council services – equivalent to over 10,000 hours of home care for older people a year
While all these one-off savings, thanks to the council’s careful financial management, are very welcome, they do not solve the Council’s very tough financial outlook.
In 2014/15 the Council made £17 million of savings, after reducing its budget by £53 million over the previous five years.
In the next three years, it expects to have to make at least another £35 million of ongoing savings on top of the £70 million already made. The new Government has already announced an extra in year cut in public health funding estimated to be around £750,000 although the government have yet to inform the council exactly how much money will be taken away despite the Council already having entered into commitments for the current year. Further new cuts are expected as part of the Chancellor’s budget statement next month.
Cllr Lee Carter, cabinet member for finance, said: “The Council has continued its strong financial management despite the most difficult circumstances.
“It allows us to offer some short-term protection from deeper cuts in adult social care and children in care as well as investing in some one-off priorities, particularly focussing on improving the borough’s environment and building on our success in tackling youth unemployment.
“This puts us in a better position than many other councils for the very tough times that lie ahead. The depth and scale of expected further Government cuts can only mean much deeper cuts to services over the next three years. It is inevitable that tough choices lie ahead and we will want to consult with the community later this year as further options for the necessary cuts are developed.”