Council continues budget plans ahead of further challenges
Telford & Wrekin's latest budget proposals are set to continue the Council’s budget strategy and plans it began last year.
This would see the Council continue with its agreed savings plans already identified totalling another £7 million next year, on top of the £110 million it has already saved from its budget since 2010.
The Council will continue its budget strategy agreed last year following consultation, and is set to raise council tax in 2018 and 2019 by 3.2% each year.
This will take the council to the end of the Government’s four year funding settlement which started in 2016. Councils have no clarity yet around what funding arrangements will be in place after 2019.
In addition to savings already identified, the Council is increasingly looking for ways that it can support groups such as town and parish councils and other organisations to help deliver services that the Council has run in the past but can no longer afford to, albeit often in different ways.
An example of this is how various groups have stepped forward to run a number of former council libraries, ensuring that these have remained open.
The proposed council tax increase would be equivalent to an extra 58p a week for the average borough Band B home. The majority of the increase is a 2% increase to support adult social care that Government has already assumed in its funding settlement that councils like Telford & Wrekin will make. The remaining 1.2% increase, equivalent to a Government grant councils had received to freeze council tax but now stopped, will support other services, while budgets for both vulnerable adults and children will both see increases in their budgets.
Reflecting the situation nationally, these two areas face continued pressure due to an increasing older population in the borough and high numbers of children in care. Telford & Wrekin currently has the third lowest level of council tax for equivalent services in the Midlands. The Council says however that as its Government grant continues to further reduce, it expects to need to find a further £25 million from its budget between 2019 and 2021.
Cllr Lee Carter, cabinet member for finance, said: “Our plans seek to continue the course we’ve set for the last seven years which has seen us within budget but being able to protect front line services and use money wisely to invest in communities. That strategy is sensible but is being squeezed remorselessly by the Government.
We could have increased council tax by up 6%, but this would only add to the financial pressures that so many in the borough already feel. And we are making it clear along with Councils from all political colours across the Country that the Government cannot expect to resolve this by asking the public to pay the bill for providing good services for the elderly and young through their Council Tax. Local people ask why they should pay more to receive what in their view amounts to less – we can’t deliver these services on the cheap.
“We are doing as much as we can by introducing plans to help ease the cost pressures on adults and looked after children’s services in particular. But the cost of providing these services and the numbers needing these are growing at a far faster rate than we can deal with.
“Equally we must continue to build on the success we have had working with community groups and organisations in finding new ways of providing services that we can no longer afford to. We are also continuing with a range of one-off measures to create a better borough such as investing in developing new business premises to attract more business here, boosting superfast broadband as well as the significant investment in the Pride in Our Community programme to improve roads, street lights and getting the community even more actively involved in different ways. By investing what we can into making our borough a great place to live, work, learn and do business we are enabling more and more of our community to do what they can do for their borough, community and neighbours.
“The importance of partnerships and partnership working as we move into ever more difficult financial times are greater than ever. We have already made huge strides forward in our work with community groups and organisations to help protect services such as libraries and community centres which we could no longer afford to run. We continue to make some one-off funding to help support this and reduce demand of council services.
“While our plans will address the challenge we face in the medium term, by 2021 we can expect those challenges to increase. The Government is choosing to cut grants to local government much more than other parts of the public sector and this will hit more deprived areas with a low council tax base such as this borough than it will wealthier parts of the UK. ”
The Council will be discussing its budget plans with partners and key stakeholder in January and early February. Anyone who has any comments on the Councils budget plans or suggestions of ways the Council can make savings should contact firstname.lastname@example.org