Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Council sets out budget to protect vital public services as financial pressures mount

Budget plans intended to protect essential council services in Leicestershire are to be discussed tomorrow.

Leicestershire county councillors will meet on Wednesday (23) to address the challenging financial position facing the authority.

The council’s proposed medium term financial strategy (MTFS) looks to manage the rising costs of caring for vulnerable children and adults while finding ways to deal with increasing inflationary costs across services and on key multi-million pound capital projects needed to support the county’s growing population and economy.

The authority is proposing to increase its share of the council tax bill by three per cent from April – a two per cent rise in the basic levy and one per cent ringfenced to contribute towards adult social care.

This rise is below the current rate of inflation and the lowest increase in recent years.

The precept rise will also help fund other key services including children’s social care, public health, transport, education, planning, road maintenance, libraries, waste management and trading standards.

Cabinet lead member for resources councillor Lee Breckon said: “The money we will receive from the Government in the coming financial year was better than anticipated but significant risks remain.

“Our proposed budget will balance the books next year but we still face a gap between our income and what we will need to spend of £39 million by 2026.

“Our financial strategy is prudent and deliverable though we will still need to make significant savings and that will require difficult decisions.”

Cllr Lee Breckon, Cabeniet member for resources said: “It is recognised many residents will be having a hard time with the rising cost of living.

“We ask for more council tax with great reluctance and we will need to repay residents by delivering those essential services efficiently and effectively.

The pressure on the council to fund both children’s and adult social care remains considerable with rising demand in the number of vulnerable older and young people who need looking after – and the costs of the care they need rising.

Overall social care costs are expected to rise by £88 million over the next four years with a significant part of that needed to pay the national minimum wage.

There is also large deficit of £63 million predicted by 2026 in paying for the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

More than half a billion pounds is also to be spent on major capital schemes between now and 2026 to provide for essential infrastructure – such as new roads and schools – to meet the demands of the county’s growing population and economy.

The popular Shire Grants scheme is being boosted with an additional £150,000 to make up a £600,000 pot available annually to communities to bid in to for projects that will make a real difference for Leicestershire’s residents.

The council remains committed to its target of helping to plant 700,000 trees across the county – one for every resident – and the MTFS contributes £100,000 developing a tree nursery to grow saplings towards this target, helping to make our county cleaner and greener.

The MTFS also provides £50,000 to enable the cost of road closures to be waived for communities and groups planning street parties to celebrate HM The Queens’s Platinum Jubilee in June.

Cllr Breckon said: “This budget will provide protection for vulnerable children and adults, builds on the Covid support we’ve provided over the past years and will continue to support.

“It delivers the lowest rise in the precept in recent years.

“Although we can balance the books this year, we will continue our campaign to get a better funding deal from government- and this includes working with the cross-party F20 group of the lowest funded councils in England to achieve this aim.”

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