Budget plans set for boost for regeneration and high streets

Telford & Wrekin Council will continue its agreed two year budget plan, against a background of continuing cuts in Government grants, together with a proposed new £2 million boost for regeneration of local High Streets and Pride in Our Community initiatives.

Budget plans set for boost for regeneration and high streets

This has been made possible following changes to the Council’s finances including a one-off VAT refund. These changes will also see an extra £850,000 put in to support children’s safeguarding, which faces continuing pressures.

A report to Cabinet on 14 February 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 £30 million more in annual savings by 2022.

The number of senior and middle managers has already been cut by over half, back office costs by over £12m a year and £2m saved a year by reducing the number of buildings it operates from.

The Council’s 3.2% council tax increase (60p per week for the borough’s average band B home) will go on to a full council on 28 February for final approval. This was agreed as part of the Budget Strategy consulted on 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 spend.

Telford & Wrekin expects to continue to have the lowest Council Tax in the West Midlands and amongst the lowest of any English Unitary Authority.
In total £3.6 million is due to be transferred to a one-off fund which would provide:
• A further £1 million boost for the existing Pride in Our Community High Street fund which has already invested £1.5 million into key town centres across the borough
• Another £1 million for the Council’s Pride in Our Community programme
• A £1.3 million fund to help residents get more active, improve green spaces and rights of way, support for Armed Forces personnel and to support  with high profile campaigns such as recruiting more foster carers, support for residents affected most by the continuing impacts of austerity.
• £300k to support initiatives with public transport operators and other partners to boost public transport to the borough’s main industrial estates, education establishments and concessionary travel.

The Council is also planning to put another £1.6 million into reserves given the ongoing cuts in grant. This week it was confirmed that next year the Council faces a further £4.3 million cut in Government grant.

Telford and Wrekin is however avoiding the need for emergency financial measures many councils are facing because of its robust financial management and drive to increase income from initiatives like the Solar Farm, Nu Place and commercial services which generate around £25 million a year of income.

The Council has also invested nearly £2 million 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.

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 while many councils are beset by financial crises and emergency budget measures, our robust approach and planning means we can continue to invest in the borough and its residents.

“Indeed some recent changes means we’ll be asking Council to back a series of one-off measures to help residents and put money back into communities, particularly those hardest hit by years of austerity.

“The latest local government finance settlement gives us no respite as we face more 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.
“After making £117 million a year savings from our budget since 2010, we expect that we will still need to find another £30 million over the next three years and 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.”

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