Nottingham City Council has set its budget for 2016/17 – with a Council Tax increase of 3.95% needed to keep vital services like adult social care going following Government cuts.
The council had to find £20.5m of savings from the budget for the forthcoming year, having lost £70m in Government grant since 2013/14. By the end of the current Parliament, the Government will phase out the grant it provides to councils altogether.
This shift in funding arrangements from national to local taxation through Council Tax and Business Rates is already underway. The Chancellor, as well as expecting councils to raise Council Tax by a further 2% to compensate for the cuts, introduced a 2% social care levy – which forms half the increase for 2016/17. The levy will raise £1.8m in Nottingham – but this will not meet the cost of over £4.7m the city needs to care just for the additional elderly and disabled people requiring services each year. It will impact on support for people with Alzheimer’s, the length of wait for assessment, reduced time carers can spend with the elderly and a focus on severe cases.
The City Council budget – approved at the full council meeting on Monday 7 March – will also see a reduction of 55 posts as well as more changes to the way services are provided and pursuing commercial opportunities. The changes include increasing day care fees, dimming lights on residential streets, reviewing sport and leisure fees and charges and introducing a fee for bus pass holders from outside the city using Park & Ride services.
In setting the budget, the council has done what it can to protect services that are a priority for citizens, such as keeping crime and anti-social behaviour down, keeping Nottingham as a clean city, weekly bin collections and supporting services to protect children and vulnerable adults.
But Nottingham has been hit disproportionately by the Government’s cuts – over the last two years, Nottingham households have lost £254 while those in Windsor have lost only £34 in ‘spending power.’ Yet it is places like Windsor, not Nottingham, which will benefit from a £300m Government fund to help them cope with the cuts.
Nottingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Graham Chapman, said: “We don’t want to place this extra burden on local households, but unfortunately this is the way things are headed under this Government. They have imposed more savage cuts on councils like ours than those in wealthy areas in the south. Not only that, they have added insult to injury by handing out special grants to those more affluent places to help them cope with cuts whilst overlooking places like Nottingham that have been more drastically affected.
“These manifestly unfair cuts so far are just a prelude to scrapping the main Government grant to councils in favour of local services being funded by local taxpayers through Council Tax and Business Rates. This year, as well as expecting cash-strapped councils to increase Council Tax, George Osborne has also assumed councils will impose a further 2% levy for adult social care, which although we’ve reluctantly accepted it, doesn’t even cover the increased costs of providing these vital services.”