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Council sets out budget and council tax proposals for year ahead

Published: 20 January 2021

We are considering proposals to keep a rise in council tax as low as possible while protecting vital services and meeting significant budget pressures.

Our Cabinet will meet on Thursday (21 January 2021) to consider how we will manage and spend our proposed £571.7 million budget for 2021-22, and the level of council tax required.

The Revenue Budget Report sets out our current financial position, the impact of COVID-19, details of the government’s spending review 2020 and the provisional local government finance settlement, including council tax levels, before identifying the service pressures facing the council and consequent budget savings required.

This year the government is permitting local authorities with responsibility for adult social care to raise council tax by a maximum of 5%, made up of an adult social care precept of 3% (which must be spent solely on adult social care) and 2% for general council expenditure.

We are proposing to set our increase at half that amount at 2.5%, made up of 1% for adult social care (which would raise just over £3.4m) and 1.5% for general council expenditure.

If agreed, we would have the option of levying the remaining 2% adult social care precept the following year if required.

If the council tax rise is agreed it would mean an extra 50p per week for an average band B household and for a band D household the rise would be 65p per week.

Our Leader Councillor Barry Lewis said:

“We are facing budget pressures like never before as we see demand for adult and children’s social care continue to rise and extra challenges placed on each department and its services due to the current pandemic.

“We have welcomed significant extra government funding for social care and to help meet COVID costs in the past year and the council remains in a stable position financially.

“However, adult and children’s social care budgets will continue to fall short in future years due to demand and increased costs. While we work hard on innovative and enterprising ways to provide these vital services we need a longer term solution to funding.”

Councillor Lewis added:

“We realise that many households are facing extra pressure themselves due to the pandemic and we do not want to add any extra financial burden to residents which is why we’ve worked hard to propose the lowest council tax increase that we can.”

Significant additional government support in the shape of the Social Care Grant saw the council receive just over £21.9 million last year to be spent on adults and children’s social care, with a further £27.6 million for the coming year.

We have also set aside a further £10m as a contingency to meet further increases in social care costs to ensure we can meet our commitments.

The adult care budget will rise for the coming year by £3.5 million to £262.1 million, and the children’s services budget will increase by £10.4 million to a total of £121.3 million.

Although COVID-19 has put pressure on departmental budgets across the council, costs in 2020-21 are currently being met following announcements of funding during the pandemic including £45 million from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government in emergency grant funding, an additional forecast £4.8 million for lost sales, fees and charges income and £38 million of ringfenced COVID-19 specific funding against the pandemic-related costs.

To ensure the books continue to balance for the years ahead a cross-council savings target of £13.3 million has been set for 2021-22 and the savings target over the next five years for the council is approximately £72.6 million.

Last year we announced we were going to invest £4 million on tackling climate change, and the report states that early costs associated with this work may be offset by future savings as the work continues.

In addition to the Revenue Budget, Cabinet will also consider our capital programme, which includes a range of schemes including investment in the Local Transport Plan of £22 million to support maintenance of the highways, major capital projects, such as the A61 Growth Corridor and a programme of road safety and traffic management engineering schemes. These capital proposals are contained in a separate report.

This follows on from the announcement in the autumn that we will spend £40 million across the county over 18 months on improving roads and pavements.

At its meeting Cabinet will make recommendations to Full Council to consider when it meets on Wednesday 3 February 2021.