A meeting of Nottingham City Council’s Full Council today, Monday 8th March, agreed a package of budget proposals as it establishes a sustainable financial footing amid the Covid crisis.
Whilst the medium term financial future contains many uncertainties, the council has approved £15.6m of savings and limited use of reserves to deliver a one-year balanced budget after an exceptional year.
For councils across the country the impact of the Covid pandemic and the context of years of austerity have had far-reaching consequences and Nottingham is no different in recognising the need to meet new and emerging challenges over the years ahead. The council is looking to the future and in accepting the outcome of the rapid review that took place late last year, is focussed on delivering good services to the residents of Nottingham in a financially sustainable way.
Monday’s Budget debate included a call for the Government to urgently address a number of issues which will be significant for the council’s budget and financial stability over the coming years including:
- The need to bring forward the promised Green Paper on Adult Social Care with a funding model that does not rely on continued increases in Council Tax
- Changes in legislation relating to services for vulnerable children where provider pricing nationally is spiralling – Nottingham City Council is facing an estimated additional cost pressure of £12million over the coming year
- Further support for businesses and employment services which will be crucial in helping Nottingham people as we enter the Covid recovery period.
Measures to balance the forthcoming budget include some service changes, as well as a workforce reduction of 272 full-time equivalent posts – 123 of which have been held vacant.
The council will implement the Government’s proposed 3% social care precept towards the rising costs of care services for elderly and vulnerable adults, which now accounts for over 35% of the council’s net budget and will also apply a 1.99% increase to core Council Tax.
Following the public consultation on the proposed budget savings, a number of changes were debated and agreed, including scrapping the proposed 30p charge for public toilets in the city, not implementing the staffing reduction to the missing children’s team and continuing the grants to arts and cultural venues with a much smaller 15% funding reduction rather than the 37% that had been considered.
Nottingham City Council has had to make over £271m of budget savings between 2010/11 and 2019/20, and during the current pandemic has had to deal with £25.9m unreimbursed Covid response costs and lost income. Despite this, the council has worked hard to protect frontline services that people have valued so much during the pandemic.
The council is committed to providing a wide and comprehensive range of services to protect the most vulnerable, keep Nottingham clean and safe and continue to be ambitious for the communities the council serves.
The City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Sam Webster, said: “This budget comes during an extremely difficult time for the people of Nottingham, the nation as a whole and the council.
“The impact of Covid has been devastating in many ways. The health effects coupled with the economic situation has dealt a blow to many of our residents. During this most difficult time for our city the council has stepped up to support our most vulnerable residents and taken on new responsibilities ranging from getting every rough sleeper into safe accommodation to administering tens of millions of pounds worth of business grants to help small employers through the pandemic.
“Thousands of key workers work either directly or indirectly for the council, from care workers and bin lorry crews to bus drivers and school catering staff. Our key workers have stepped up to help people through this crisis. We wouldn’t have come through it without them.
“Given the backdrop of ten years of Government funding reductions to councils across the country added to the costs of Covid for 2020/21, £25.9m of which is still not reimbursed, we are having to take difficult decisions in this budget. In order for us to maintain financial stability and therefore service stability we are responding to recognise the changes that will be needed at the council over the coming years. As well as dealing with inadequate funding and the inevitable ongoing implications of Covid, the council will also be transforming and modernising itself in line with the recommendations of the recent short non statutory review.
“During the year, the council received two important reports – a Public Interest Report from the external auditor and a Government led non-Statutory Review. We have accepted the findings of both reports and we welcome working with a new Improvement Panel and the sector expertise that they will bring as we work to transform and modernise the council.
“Looking ahead, the council will have a leading role to support economic recovery. We will work with local businesses, universities, charities and Government agencies to attract new investment to Nottingham. We’re determined that Nottingham should be a fairer, greener, more inclusive city post-Covid, with our carbon neutral 2028 pledge still strong and focussing on our mission to help create thousands of new jobs for the people of Nottingham.
“As 2021 unfolds, we hope to see several major job-creating projects come to fruition, notably the reopening of the renovated Nottingham Castle, the new Nottingham College city hub campus, the HMRC regional hub as well as the new bus station, car park and green public space around the Broadmarsh site. The council’s ambition for Nottingham remains undimmed.”