Council budget to prioritise social care and tackling climate change

Plymouth City Council is investing more on vital care services over the next year despite having to find more than £12 million through savings, additional income and grant income changes to balance its books for 2020/21.

An extra £5 million funding is being allocated to meeting the rising demand and cost of protecting vulnerable children in Plymouth and more than £4 million to meet extra costs for adult social care.

More funding is also being allocated towards keeping the city clean and helping tackle climate change.

The Council is also continuing to deliver an ambitious £93 million capital investment programme to support the local economy, safeguarding and creating thousands of jobs.

It includes the replacement of much of the Council’s fleet with more environmentally friendly vehicles to help reduce the Council’s carbon footprint. This includes investing in more than 50 electric vehicles and installing charging points around the city.

A report to the Cabinet says the costs for providing social care for adults and vulnerable children continues to rise.

These costs include the need to pay those who provide social care services with a living wage and meeting the rising demand for complex care support. This minimum wage is increasing to £8.67 an hour from April 2020, which is further to the increase to £8.21 an hour last year.

It says the Council faces continued uncertainty in future funding due to delays in the Government announcing the local government funding settlement and is having to assume that the revenue support grant funding it receives from the Government will continue to decline.

In 2010/11 it received £123 million a year in revenue support grant. For this coming year it will receive £9.7 million and it is likely to receiving none in following year.

There is also no confirmation on the future funding the Council has relied on in recent years, including the New Homes Bonus, paid to local authorities delivering housing growth.

However, the Council has been successful in growing the size of the city and the number of households contributing to Council Tax with an extra 682 houses.

The report says the Council has continued to make savings and has only accepted additional costs in the budget in exceptional circumstances, with the assumption that departments absorb increased cost of service demand and inflation through proactive management action and efficiencies.

No decision about Council tax levels have been made yet though the Government is assuming authorities will partially cover the increased costs of supporting older and vulnerable residents through a two per cent precept on bills.

The Council is due to set its budget and Council Tax levels on 24 February.

Councillor Mark Lowry, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We’ve lost a huge proportion of our funding in recent years due to the Government cutting our revenue support grant, equating to around 60p in every pound. Imagine losing this much from your household income.

“The Government continues to pass the burden onto local taxpayers. It is effectively telling councils to raise council tax by 4 per cent.

“But while the overall financial context we are operating in continues to be horrendous due to the ongoing failure by the Government to properly fund local government – and social care in particular – there’s quite a lot we can be positive about.

“We are continuing to protect vital services and prioritise critical areas such as protecting vulnerable children and adults in the most need.

“We are successfully investing in Plymouth to create jobs and raise income. Our investment strategy is not only helping safeguard jobs, it is providing vital income for services.

“We are also putting our money where our mouths are to help do our bit to tackle climate change, which is being given a high priority.

“So while the Government has put us in an extremely tough financial position, we’re continuing to work hard to protect services for Plymouth residents through a proactive and ambitious approach to managing our resources.”

Councillor Sue Dann, Cabinet member for Street Scene and the Environment, said: “The extra money in the budget for the environment is very welcome and reflects our commitment to tackling climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. We are a green city and we need to leave a legacy for future generations. This investment will help us with this vital mission.”