Nottingham City Council is setting next year’s budget against the backdrop of having its Government funding slashed by three-quarters over the past decade.
It means that to keep on meeting the growing demand to look after the elderly – now by far the biggest single cost to the council – Council Tax will have to go up again. It’s the result of a decade of the Government retreating from funding local services and expecting councils to raise Council Tax bills in an attempt to pay for adult social care.
City Council Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Sam Webster, says that the Government’s approach is wrong. It pushes up council taxes on hard pressed households and does nothing to help those areas where there is higher need for care services. Such is the scale of Government funding cuts Council Tax will never raise enough to pay for care of the elderly and vulnerable in Nottingham.
The council will need to make £15.8m of savings in 2020/21, of which £13.4m is included in the December budget consultations report. This will be achieved by innovating, trying to do things differently and making further efficiencies – but that still doesn’t leave enough to fund vital services. Government funding cuts mean that Council Tax will rise by almost 4%, including the Government’s 2% adult social care precept. Some of the savings are:
- Relocating The Willows older people day service to the Cherry Trees residential service
- Increasing fees and charges for a range of paid-for services
- Increasing on-street parking charges
- Looking at an alternative operating model for Nottingham Tennis Centre
- Making changes to Link bus services.
Cllr Webster said: “The Government is expecting us to increase Council Tax to pay for the cost of care services for elderly people – that’s why Council Tax is going up again. It’s not the right way to fund such vital services – we need proper policies and adequate funding from Government to address the national crisis we face in caring for people in their old age.
“We’re having to make savings of another £15.8m in this budget, but the Council Tax increase only brings in just above £4m.
“This scale of Government funding cuts has never happened before. In Nottingham we receive over £100m less per year than we did in 2013. Despite repeated promises from Government of a new plan to fund care services nothing has changed.
“The vast bulk of our funding is now spent on care services for vulnerable children and older people with care needs. These are vital services that thousands of our residents rely on every day.
“Councils up and down the country now have no choice but to raise council tax, increase charges and make further service reductions to try to close the funding gap. After nine years of ignoring this problem it is urgent that Government puts forward new money and a new policy to fund care for the elderly.”
The council’s Executive Board discussed some of the proposed savings over the next year on Tuesday 17 December – details are available here https://committee.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/documents/s98146/Budget%20Consultation%20202021.pdf
Members of the public can take part in the consultation on these proposals here https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=157657468837