Council continues budget plans ahead of further challenges
Telford & Wrekin has continued its budget strategy and will raise council tax in 2018 by 3.2% in 2018 and plans to do the same in 2019.
The Council will continue with 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.
This will take the council to the end of the Government’s four year funding settlement begun 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 2018 council tax increase is equivalent to an extra 58p a week for the average borough Band B home.
The majority of this is a 2% increase to support adult social care that Government had already assumed in its funding settlement that councils like Telford & Wrekin would make.
The remaining 1.2% increase, equivalent to a Government grant councils received to freeze council tax that has now stopped, will support other services, while budgets for both vulnerable adults and children will both see increases in their budgets.
However as the Council’s 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: “We are continuing the course we’ve set for the last seven years, staying within budget but protecting front line services as far as possible and using money wisely to invest in communities, despite remorseless reductions in Government grant.
“While many councils have chosen to increase council tax by almost 6%, we have minimised this, although we recognise that for many people in the borough 3.2% is still a significant increase.
“We continue to join forces with councils of all colours in being clear to Government that it cannot expect to continue asking the public to foot the bill for good services for the elderly and young through their Council Tax - services that cannot be delivered on the cheap.
“We are helping to ease cost pressures on adults and looked-after children’s services in particular. But the cost of these services and the numbers needing these are growing at a far faster rate.
“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. The importance of partnerships and partnership working as we move into ever more difficult financial times are greater than ever and continue to make some one-off funding to help support this and reduce demand of council services
“We are also continuing with a range of one-off measures to create a better borough such as investing in attracting 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.
“While our plans will address the challenge we face in the medium term, by 2021 we can expect those challenges to only increase. The Government is cutting grants to local government much more than other parts of the public sector.
“This will continue to hit more deprived areas with a low council tax base such as this borough much harder than it will wealthier parts of the UK.”