Proposals for a balanced 2023/24 City Council budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan through to 2026/27 are being recommended for approval at next week’s Executive Board meeting.
In December, councillors endorsed £29m of savings proposals to go forward for consultation, towards an overall budget gap for the next financial year of £32.2m. The remaining £3.2m gap has been closed with no further savings proposals having to be considered following the five-week consultation that took place in person and online, with over 450 people providing feedback.
The council continues to operate in a very challenging economic environment and like other similar authorities, faces significant financial pressures over the term of the four-year financial plan. It is committed to delivering its transformation programme and is investing to improve financial management. Over the period of the Medium-term Financial Plan, over £10m of transformation investment is identified to radically change the way the council operates, helping to achieve almost £60m of savings.
A range of proposals affecting services form part of the forthcoming budget, from changes to adult social care, including more independent living support instead of residential or nursing care and reviewing fees and charges for parking, cremation and burials, leisure centres and cafes, to reviewing grants to community groups, community centres and cultural organisations and stopping collection of household bins put out on the wrong day.
It is proposed to raise 2023/24 Council Tax by the full 4.99% permitted under Government proposals – made up of 2.99% Council Tax and a further 2% precept specifically towards Adult Social Care costs. Nottingham has one of the lowest council tax bases in the country for its population size, with 80% of homes in the two lowest Council Tax bands – almost twice the national average. This means the council increase would equate to between £1.25 and £1.46 more per week for the vast majority of city residents, with total annual bills of £1,368.59 (Band A) and £1,596.69 (Band B).* The council also charges an average council tax per household that is among the lowest nationally – last year the average total bill ranked 45th lowest out of 309 charging authorities.
The council recognises though that many households are facing financial hardship and provides additional support through its Council Tax Support scheme which takes the form of council tax discount. Around 19,600 households are expected to benefit from the Council Tax support scheme at an estimated value of £27.8 million in 2023/24.
The proposals also include temporary borrowing of £20m of internal earmarked revenue reserves to strengthen the council’s financial resilience. The temporarily repurposed reserves must be repaid within the term of the financial plan by 2026/27.
The City Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Adele Williams, said: “Like all councils, businesses and households, the City Council’s finances have been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis created by soaring inflation on pay, fuel and energy costs. Other pressures, including vastly diminished Government grants over the last 13 years, have also made this another challenging year to set next year’s budget and a four-year financial plan.
“With ongoing issues of social care funding, local tax payers face an additional cost on their council tax bills and we have no real choice but to set the 4.99% Council Tax allowed by Government, which includes a supplement to help towards the increasing costs and demand for adult social care.
“Sadly this will place a further burden on local people who we know are already struggling, and won’t raise enough to properly meet local needs. But we get just under £100m a year less in general grant than we did a decade ago from the national government, which seriously affects our ability to provide the services local people need. That’s equivalent to £694 for each household in our city – we are being asked to fill that gap from Nottingham pockets and from savings from service areas.
“We will continue to fight for a fairer deal for our city.”
The Executive Board will meet on Tuesday 21 February to discuss the budget which will then go to the meeting of the Full Council on Monday 6 March.
* These figures refer to the City Council element of the Council Tax and exclude the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Fire Rescue Authority precepts.