Nottingham City Council is preparing to set next year’s budget against a backdrop of £130m of cuts to its Government grant since 2010 and a national shift towards local taxpayers footing the bill for services.
Shifting the burden to local taxpayers includes the Government’s proposed additional 3% social care precept as a way to address the funding crisis in providing care for the elderly.
The council has made over £200m in savings over the last six years and needs to make a further £27m for 2017/18 and another £19m up to 2020 – when under Government plans, the main Government grant to councils will be scrapped altogether and replaced with the ability for councils to keep all of the business rates raised locally.
Once again, the council is looking to protect key services such as children’s centres, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, keeping Nottingham as the UK’s cleanest city and protecting children and supporting vulnerable elderly people.
But Nottingham has been hit harder than most by Government cuts, with people in Nottingham losing £71 per household while in Rutland for example, people are gaining £44. And the Government gave nothing to Nottingham when it handed out £150m earlier this year to soften the blow of cuts – while giving it to better off areas such as Surrey and Richmond. Despite repeated requests by the City Council, the Government has so far refused to explain how the funds were allocated. It is expected that the Government will repeat its generosity to the better off areas this year with a further £150m donation.
The city also suffers more under the Government’s proposals to address the funding crisis in adult social care, allowing councils to raise Council Tax by 3%, on top of the 1.95% already accounted for. But this once again leaves local council taxpayers shouldering the burden and is not enough to plug the funding gap – especially in more disadvantaged areas like Nottingham where less can be raised through Council Tax and yet demand for care services is greater. A third of the council’s overall budget is spent on adult social care, with the total additional cost to the council set to reach £54million by 2019/20.
As well as the Council Tax increase and a reduction of 63 posts, the council is managing to stave off significant service impacts by bringing in extra income through running more services on a commercial basis, more efficiently and in a different way. Some of the key savings proposals to balance the 2017/18 budget include:
- Introducing a fare on Centrelink and Medilink bus services
- Reviewing on-street parking charges
- Increasing commercial sales and contracts
- Redesigning the running of Children’s Centres
- Carrying out efficiencies in Play and Youth services
- Reducing Youth Crime services
- Reducing funding for Nottingham Futures
- Introducing a charge for non-domestic use of the Household Waste Service
- Reviewing Leisure Centre and Bereavement Services fees and charges
- Reducing cultural grants.
Nottingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Graham Chapman, said: “This Government is placing the burden on the residents and businesses of Nottingham to pick up the bill for local services, while taking away more funds from Nottingham than many richer parts of the country.
“Nowhere is this more unfair or more serious than in the adult social care funding crisis, for which the Government is shirking its responsibility. Instead of providing a centrally-funded, coordinated solution to help the elderly and prevent bed blocking in the NHS, we need a national solution; this proposal is short term and simply ‘dumping ‘ costs onto local council taxpayers. But even this will not be enough. Extra demand in Nottingham for adult care this year will be £10; the extra 3% council tax, if taken, would raise only £2.9m, which means that the proposals are no more than a sticking plaster. Moreover, because adult social care accounts for a third of our total budget, it squeezes funds even further for other services.
“Despite all of this we have worked hard to run services more efficiently and on a commercial basis and sought to protect services that local people value as much as possible. However, by 2020, when the Government plans to replace the grant it gives to councils with business rates – another move which will disadvantage poorer areas – we will have lost over £180m in Government funds for local services while demand for them increases.”
The proposals will be considered by the council’s Executive Board on Tuesday 20 December after which people can give their views on the budget proposals so far and to continue to provide any suggestions on how to make further savings, through the Your City Your Services process, at: www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/yourcityyourservices and at consultation meetings in January.
People can comment on the draft budget proposals from now until just before the budget is approved at the full council meeting on Monday 6 March 2017.