Weathering the coronavirus crisis and maintaining vital services are the drivers behind Leicestershire County Council’s proposed budget.
From April, the authority plans to invest in children and family services, adult social care and environment and transport, ensuring services are resourced to cope with the demands being placed on them by the pandemic.
The four-year financial plan will be discussed by county councillors at the annual budget meeting tomorrow (Wednesday).
A £450m capital pot to spend on new roads, school places, recycling initiatives and other infrastructure supporting new homes over the next four years is also in the plans.
A 4.99 per cent Council Tax rise is included for 2021/22 – including a three per cent levy for adult social care. This equates to £5.59 a month for a Band D house – or £1.40 a week.
Against a tough backdrop, I am confident that the budget strikes the right balance of financial sustainability and service protection.Person:Councillor Byron Rhodes, cabinet member for finance
Although we can balance the books for two years, our plans show that the expected difference between income and expenditure will be £23m by 2025, despite £56m of savings having been identified. And despite our ongoing campaign for fair funding, we remain the lowest funded county in the country. This is why we have had to make £220m of savings already since 2010.
Asking residents to pay more is not where we want to be. But if this increase was not taken, service cuts would be the inevitable consequence - and higher Council Tax increases were broadly supported by respondents to our recent budget survey. It is the only significant lever available to us to raise extra money to fund vital services whilst balancing the budget.
And with £255m set to be spent on children and family services and adult social care, provision for £28m of coronarvirus related pressures, plus £450m invested in new roads, extra school places and carbon-reduction projects, I believe this a budget that delivers for our residents.
The county council meets at 2pm tomorrow to agree the budget – watch the meeting online
Just under 300 people gave their views in a consultation over the winter. This showed broad support for the plan including the proposed growth and savings plans and that 55 per cent supported a Council Tax increase of three per cent or more.
Budget in more detail
Growing demand for services is expected to increase costs by £60m, including:
• Children and Family Services (£23m) - this is mainly due to pressures on the budget for social care places, which are rising by over 10 per cent a year, and growing social worker caseloads
• Adult Social Care (£13m) - this is largely the result of an ageing population with increasing care needs and a growing number of people with learning disabilities
• Environment and Transport (£4m) - this primarily relates to more SEND pupils requiring transport
The £56m savings are made up of:
• £30m of detailed savings – reducing children and family costs by re-shaping how services are delivered, reducing adult social care costs by simplifying processes and speeding up support, bringing together early help and prevention services - and delivering some in-house and reducing disposal costs by recycling and re-using more waste
• A ‘high needs development plan’ which will reduce SEND costs by £26m
A Council Tax increase of 4.99 per cent is proposed (including the 3 per cent adult social care levy) and equates to £5.59 a month for a band D house. Councils can apply a levy of three per cent for adult social care over two years – the proposal is to include a three per cent levy in 2021/22.
Council Tax is the only significant lever available to the County Council to raise additional money to fund vital services whilst balancing the budget
The £450m four-year capital pot sets out plans for sustainable investment across the county including:
• £70m to improve and maintain existing roads and bridges
• £120m for improving transport infrastructure
• £72m for extra school places, including specialist provision for SEND students
• £25m to boost adult social care accommodation that supports people to live independently
• £23m for recycling and household waste initiatives and specific carbon and energy reduction projects
• £71m to invest in property to generate ongoing money for front line services