Combination of growth and change helps balance books

A combination of encouraging growth across Plymouth and changing how services are run is helping to balance the books and set the city in the right direction.

Cabinet will meet on 7 February to consider the latest budget report ahead of it being considered at Council on Monday 27 February.

The report highlights a sharply declining revenue grant from Government but also details an exciting capital programme with projects designed to encourage growth, jobs and business.

Council leader Ian Bowyer said: “This is not about cutting services. This is about trying to deliver things differently in the face of diminishing resources.

“We also need to look at the other side of coin to see how we can increase our income to be more entrepreneurial and we are making huge strides.

“The landscape of local government is changing all the time. It is tough, but we need to find the answers ourselves to the pressures less Government funding presents us. We need to be more responsible for our own destiny and rise to the challenge.”

“There is a vital link between what we are doing to encourage growth and the services we carry out to run the city. More businesses thriving here means an income for us so that we are less reliant on Government support.”

The report outlines details of a major investment programme to unlock growth which is outlined in a separate release.

The current approved capital programme totals £205 million and includes the History Centre, improvements to the transport network, new and expanded schools, Oceansgate and acquiring key sites to generate income.

The Council has already delivered £65 million savings over the last three years but declining Government funding and the rising cost of care service means it has to deliver a further £37 million of savings over the next three years.

As a result of adopting its three-year Medium Term Financial strategy, the Council already has in train measures including increased savings targets from existing transformation programmes, covering integration of health and social care, growing Plymouth’s economy, increasing commercial opportunities, making better use of the Council’s assets and increasing the number of services online.

Proposals to modernise services to reduce costs, improve efficiency and make processes easier for customers are also being considered, including the city’s parking service and the plans to move to alternate weekly collections – in line with 75 per cent of other local Councils – to increase the city’s recycling rates as well as make efficiencies.

Councillor Ian Darcy, Cabinet Member for Finance said: “We keep a constant eye on our finances to make sure that we continue to offer support for the vulnerable and elderly. They remain our top priority.”

The latest budget report identifies a gap of £2.565 million and assumes the Council will continue to use the two per cent precept on the Council Tax bills introduced by the Government last year to support adult social care services.

Cabinet is being asked to consider options to close the gap, including seeking further efficiencies across the Council. The paper also sets out the Council can increase the Council Tax by up to 1.99 per cent and increase the adult social care precept by an additional 1 per cent, but how much each Council Tax payers will not be formally set until 27 February.

Councillor Darcy said: “We are facing up to take tough decisions while modernising services. As a result of closely monitoring our spend, we have been able to better plan ahead, address pressures by changing how we run services in order to prevent cuts to services. 

“It’s a huge balancing act, but one which has the most vulnerable of our city right at its heart.”