Salford City Council has shared upcoming budget proposals for 2020/21 with news of a ‘no cuts budget’.
After confirmation of central government funding, a three year plan will be provided for councillors to consider at a Full Council meeting on Wednesday 26 February.
The council has been forced to make a total of £211 million of cuts and budget reductions to balance budgets since 2010, which has been somewhat mitigated by a combination of careful financial management, government imposed council tax increases and growth of the city which has increased the council tax and business rates base, helping the authority to protect jobs and services.
At the core of the austerity cuts in the city is a cumulative 53% cut in the council’s core funding from Central Government.
The council’s upcoming budget offers a temporary reprieve for frontline services after budget papers show a ‘no cuts’ position.
City Mayor Paul Dennett said “It is clear that austerity has hit deprived areas of the North and Midlands the hardest and it has been reported that future proposals could continue to help out the wealthiest areas of the country. This is truly scandalous! In Salford cuts have been relentless since 2010.
“The council has reached a no cuts position this year after careful stewardship and bold decisions to invest to save in innovative service changes to ensure we are making the best use of our available resources to meet the needs of our residents.
“The budget still comes with immense challenges. The costs of children’s and adults social care services have continued to spiral due to rising inequalities, an ageing population and increased demands for public services.
“Yet again the city council has been forced to make council tax and precept increases to help protect vital services to vulnerable people, set a balanced budget and provide some degree of stability for the future as government fails to fund services to the levels required.
“Following the General Election the announcements in this year’s national spending round have been marginally better but go nowhere near in replenishing the services to the people of Salford as a consequence of government driven cuts over the last ten years.
“We can’t rebuild what has been lost with what’s on offer. It is also increasingly unclear how long some funding, such as New Homes Bonus which benefits Salford, will remain. The future is still very worrying.”
The much-heralded £1 billion of additional social care funding has resulted in an increase of less than £6 million for Salford, while our latest five year financial plan with our NHS partners reveals a funding gap in health and social care of £13 million rising to £32 million by 2023/24. The way the funding is distributed favours wealthier authorities with a larger council tax base and disproportionately hits councils such as Salford that feature in the most deprived local authorities in the country.
“The Local Government Association has modelled the impact of future proposals and it looks bleak for deprived areas. As highlighted in recent press reports there could be a further cut to Salford’s budget of £8.55 million in 2021/22 as a consequence of the government’s supposed ‘Fair’ Funding Review.”
Councillor Bill Hinds, Lead Member for Finance and Support Services said: “Government is continuing to pass the buck for balancing budgets. The funding system increasingly shifts the burden to local taxpayers through regressive forms of taxation, with many residents already struggling to make-ends-meet.
“Presenting councils with no other option than to increase council tax and precepts, whilst at the same time suggesting that the ‘era of austerity is finally coming to an end’ is disingenuous and unacceptable, especially if government are serious about re-balancing the economy, levelling up and the Northern Powerhouse.
“It’s shocking that we are being forced yet again to make council tax and social care precept increases, adding 3.99% onto resident bills - 1.99% council tax and 2% social care precept - to ensure we can provide support where it is needed.”
“It is far from ideal and we are continuing to mitigate the impacts on many of the most vulnerable in our city by increasing the support to those eligible through our Council Tax Reduction Scheme.”
Announcements on the council’s spending programme will be made at Full Council on Wednesday 26 February where the budget will be set.