Council budget plans address Government funding cuts

Vital day-to-day local services are being protected as the Government cuts another £27 million of funding for Plymouth residents.

The City Council is set to agree a draft budget for 2015/16 which includes £14 million less to spend on services next year due to Government funding cuts.

The Government has already cut the Council’s funding by £30m over three years and the City Council is now facing a further £27 million drop over the next few years, a report to the Cabinet says.

Despite the large-scale funding cuts the Council’s proposed budget aims to protect vital services such as maintaining weekly bin collections, cleaning streets, maintaining libraries, looking after vulnerable residents and maintaining parks.

The Council has also increased the amount it spends of maintaining the city’s roads to tackle the ongoing problem of potholes.

Councillor Mark Lowry, Cabinet member for Finance, said: “The scale of the Government cuts so far has been huge and unfortunately there are no signs of there being any let up.  It is planning to continue to make funding cuts on the same scale for the foreseeable future.

“Despite the massive scale of these funding reductions we remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect services where possible. While other towns and cities and seeing whole-scale cuts in services, we are working on a large scale and ambitious transformation programme that aims to reduce spending by doing things in new ways.

“One of the council’s biggest areas of spending is on care services for vulnerable adults, where costs and demand are rising. We are addressing this by completely reorganising the way we deliver care services for vulnerable residents. We are joining up with health service to create one new service. This is not only more efficient but also means residents only have to deal with one agency.

“We are also prioritising investment in providing more jobs and homes for Plymouth families to enable the city to grow, which brings more income to the Council to pay for local services.

“We have also been looking at everything we do to reduce spending. Over the last three years we have reduced senior management costs by around £1m. We have  had to reduce the workforce over the last couple of years and fully expect this downward trend to continue over the next few years as the transformation of our services continues. Wherever possible we avoid compulsory redundancies.

“We are now working on indicative budgets for three to four years rather than planning budgets for just a year. As we announced last year, we are proposing reluctantly to increase council tax by just under two per cent, which will mean most residents will pay no more than 36p per week more. No increase is welcome and we don’t make this decision lightly but Plymouth residents will still pay the lowest average council tax in the region.

“Ideally we wouldn’t have to do this but I find it really rich that the Government makes a lot of noise about councils not increasing council tax but says nothing about the millions it’s slashing from our funding.

“In Plymouth we have particular reason to be angry about this as the Government continues to give Plymouth residents a raw deal. For example, Plymouth’s public health grant from central Government is nearly 25 per cent below the target figure set by the Public Health England (PHE) funding formula.”

The draft 2015/16 budget will be considered by the Cabinet on 9 December. The proposals will be scrutinised in public in early January before being considered by Cabinet again in February, when the impact of the latest funding settlement will be known. The full council will agree the final budget at is meeting on 23 February.