Rising costs of adult social care and slashed Government funding have created a tipping point for Nottingham City Council as it aims to save another £27m for next year’s budget.
In the toughest budget since the Government imposed austerity measures seven years ago – which has seen Nottingham’s grant funding cut by HALF in the last three years alone – the council has so far managed to identify £21m of savings. This means it still needs to find an extra £6m to balance its budget, unless the Government addresses the adult social care shortfall in the forthcoming financial settlement.
The increasing demands for caring for the elderly, disabled and children means the budget for these services will rise significantly this year. But these services now make up 61% of the council’s entire budget – meaning the funding for other services like leisure, highways and parks is being drastically squeezed.
The Government has yet to announce any further funding to address the adult social care crisis, beyond allowing councils to add a further 3% to Council Tax bills. This doesn’t get close to the £7m more that is needed next year, but the council simply can’t afford not to take this step. It means that a total Council Tax increase of 4.9% is proposed. The budget plans also see a loss of around 200 council posts.
Some proposed cuts and changes to services include:
- Reducing funding for weight management, smoking cessation and drug & alcohol services
- Integrating parks and street scene services
- Reductions in youth services including family support, youth offending and play services
- Reducing funding for the Futures careers service
- Supporting more older people in their own homes rather than in residential care
- Reviewing transport services for adults to reduce costs
- More efficient use of the Better Care Fund
- Reviewing fees and charges for leisure centres and bereavement services
- Reductions in central support services including IT, HR and Communications and Marketing
- Increasing fares and reducing frequency on Linkbus services.
The council is also addressing the gap in Government funding by bringing in additional income through increased commercialisation such as reducing energy bills and generating income from installing solar panels on council buildings, increased income from the Royal Centre, merchandising by the National Ice Arena, improved retail offer such as Christmas Trees from Woodthorpe Nursery and establishing a water company to self-supply water to the council.
Once again, the council is doing all it can 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. It has also committed £4m a year over the next nine years towards tackling homelessness.
Nottingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Graham Chapman, said: “The Government has reduced the amount of grant funding it provides the council by half in the last three years alone and by a staggering 80% since austerity started in 2010, meaning it is dumping the financial burden for providing local services such as care for the elderly and disabled on local taxpayers. We have tried to manage but have reached a tipping point, where we have to make the really difficult decisions we have been warning about. Austerity has costs.
“Not only that but the Government has continued to treat Nottingham unfairly, with local households losing more than affluent areas, and missed Nottingham out in favour of richer places down south when handing out special funds to soften the blow of cuts.
“Unless the Government comes up with funding to plug the gap it has created in caring for the elderly and disabled, we will be forced to find ways to make further savings in the New Year, which inevitably will mean that other services will unfortunately suffer.”
The proposals will be considered by the council’s Executive Board today (December 19) and the views of the public will be invited through online consultation and engagement events, before a final decision is taken next March.