A budget to protect local services and make crucial investments in priorities has been unveiled by Salford City Council. It will go to a special Council meeting on Wednesday 23 February to be agreed.
The budget factors in key priorities such as the promised investment announced last year on a large-scale Skills and Work programme, providing £1.5 million per annum by 2023/24 to connect Salford residents with the economic growth opportunities within the city region - and act as a lever for further investment.
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “Our future focus on training and jobs in the city is aimed at ensuring we deliver a better future for many of our residents and young people with better access to opportunities to all, jobs with decent wages.”
The council followed the skills and work investment announcement with agreement to fund the Real Living Wage through the city’s integrated care fund arrangements to all our care workers.
There is also welcome news for the city with a major allocation in the capital programme to extend the commitment to new social housing and expand the council’s Dérive programme which will build houses at truly affordable rents for Salford residents. Plans have also been agreed to bring the historic Buile Hill Mansion back into use as a community and wedding venue, with further refurbishment works to be commissioned this year.
Mayor Dennett commented: “Residents have told us that they value local services and indeed specifically want to see services for young people protected as well as providing new social housing, and we’re protecting the former and focusing our capital programme investment on the latter”.
The investments are part of the council’s budget package for 2022/23.
Mayor Dennett explained the difficulty of budget planning following the pandemic: “The government’s financial settlement given this year to Salford has provided little comfort as it doesn’t give us the opportunity to plan ahead nor adequately address the budget pressures we face - the rising costs of goods and services, the increasing demand on services, nor does it address the budget cuts over the life of austerity since 2010 that has taken an incomprehensible £232 million from our budget.
“I have written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities following their 2022/23 settlement consultation outlining the failure of Government to adequately deal with budgetary pressures facing local authorities currently, heightened as a consequence of the cost-of-living and inflationary crisis we’re facing in the UK. The Government’s national insurance changes will cost Salford City Council an extra £1.1 million, for Salford City Council staff plus a likely impact where we contract for services for example care services, in employer national insurance contributions for 2022/23 and the Government’s changes to the national minimum wage will cost an extra £1.4 million to integrated health and care fund for 2022/23. This is in addition to other additional pressures in 2022/23 such as an additional £0.4 million in employer pension contributions, £1.3 million in price inflation and £3.4 million to meet pay inflation”
Mayor Dennett stated: “Councils need the funding and the flexibility to invest where we can to make the biggest impact, to address the national cost of living crisis and to provide support to those who need it.
“Our deep concerns led the council’s Cabinet to propose a motion at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 19 January, which was unanimously supported by all parties, urgently asking the Government to increase the overall funding provided to all councils in England. The motion asked that funding allow councils in England to mitigate the impacts on local council taxpayers and ensure that all the additional funding made available in 2022/23 is mainstreamed into future settlements rather than providing one-off grants. It is deeply unfortunate that the Government have made their final announcement on the local government finance settlement for 2022/23 without responding to many of the issues that councils up and down the country have raised and we are still awaiting a response to the letter.
“The Government model for local councils assumes that we will either make a council tax increase or cut our services to fund the gap. in Salford’s case this is a 3.99% increase, an 87 pence per week increase for Band A households. Given the need for investment in Salford and a reduction in core funding of 52% since 2010, the council is reluctantly proposing to increase council tax to this level, in line with the Government’s funding assumptions, at the February meeting of full Council”.
Councillor Bill Hinds, Lead Member for Finance and Support added: “The pandemic and the cost of living increases have fuelled challenging times for everyone in the city. In taking decisions about the budget we recognise the impact on the lowest paid and using everything we have available to us to direct support to tackle poverty”
“We know that nearly 80% of all the households receiving council tax reduction support live in Band A properties, and a significant discount to council tax is provided to around a third of those households. We continue to work hard to continue support those on the lowest incomes to access all the other financial support they are entitled to, along with providing £0.75 million of crisis support to over 6,000 Salford residents through our ‘Salford Assist’ programme in the last 10 months.
“Our Welfare Right and Debt Advice service is also supporting over 4,000 Salford residents each year and over the past 12 months has put nearly an additional £5 million in the pockets of local people and into the local economy though activities such as identifying unclaimed benefits.”