Council continues with budget plans for 2019
Telford & Wrekin Council is set to continue its agreed two year budget plan, against a background of continuing cuts in Government grants hitting the Council’s finances.
In many areas of the country Local Councils have been forced to introduce emergency financial measures, however, this has been avoided in Telford and Wrekin because of robust financial management and an investment strategy which has seen Council initiatives like the Solar Farm, Nu Place and “commercial services” generate around £25m income a year .
The Council has also invested nearly £2m in partnership initiatives which have helped to provide long term futures for many of the borough’s libraries, community centres and Children’s Centres, helping to avoid closure as has happened in many other parts of the country.
A budget report to be presented to Cabinet on Thursday says that after already delivering savings of £117 million a year from its budget since 2010, over the next three years the Council expects to have to find a further £28 - £30 million more in annual savings by 2022.
The Council has already cut the number of senior and middle managers by over half, back office costs by over £12m a year and saved £2m a year by reducing the number of buildings it operates from.
The report also states that the Council will implement a 3.2% council tax increase (60p per week for the borough’s average band B home) agreed as part of the Budget Strategy consulted upon last year, with all of the money from the increase invested into Adult Social Care and Children’s Services which now account for 70% of Council expenditure.
This increase is expected to see Telford & Wrekin continuing to have the lowest Council Tax in the West Midlands and amongst the lowest of any Unitary Authority in the country.
In addition the Council will increase the amount of Council Tax payable on over 140 long-term empty properties in the borough. This is expected raise around £60,000 in Council Tax which will be used to help support issues such as the Council’s work to tackle homelessness and additional support to young people leaving the Council’s care.
Council Leader Shaun Davies said: “The fact that the Council still continues to offer the range and quality of services it does is remarkable considering the cuts that Government have forced upon us. It has been no easy achievement with many sacrifices having been made and with no little determination in us generating income from as many sources as possible.
“Our strategy has faced criticism from those who would have rather seen us privatise large swathes of the Council, stop trying to invest in our communities.
“We have instead tried to carefully balance our responsibility of being financially responsible with our commitment to continue to bring communities together, invest in our residents and use the pride in our borough and our Communities to help us find alternative ways to deliver the services which are so important to residents.”
Cabinet member for finance Lee Carter said: “This budget continues our plans set out following consultation last year. The outlook is still very tough and perhaps more uncertain than it has been in the last 4 years given the wider issues that the country now faces.
“While many councils are beset by financial crises and emergency budget measures, thanks to our robust approach and good planning Telford & Wrekin can continue to invest in the borough and its residents.
“Last month’s Local Government finance settlement provided no respite as we face another multi-million pound cut to our grant from Government next year and Government policy continues to push the burden of cuts in local government grant on to the council tax payer, a challenge that will only get greater in the years ahead if the Government do not recognise the essential work done by councils such as providing vital support to vulnerable children and adults and maintaining our roads.
“After making £117 million per annum savings from our budget since 2010, we expect that we will still need to find another £28 - £30 million over the next three years.
“Sadly the state of local government finances after years of cuts in Government grants is that we are in the crazy situation where because of the growing pressures on areas such as care for vulnerable adults and looked after children, despite us increasing council tax, we still have to make cuts in our budget and services.
“As ever, we would welcome receiving views, ideas and suggestions on our budget plans and welcome as many people as possible having their say.”
Anyone will be able to give their views on the Council’s continuing budget strategy at www.telford.gov.uk/budget by emailing YourViews.Matter@telford.gov.uk from 4 January to 3 February where there is also more detailed information about the budget plans and how to submit views.