Council leader joins calls for fairer funding

Plymouth City Council leader Ian Bowyer has joined calls from councils across the South West for a fairer funding deal from the Government as the city faces huge challenges in balancing its books.

Leaders of Devon, Isles of Scilly, Plymouth, Somerset, Torbay, Dorset and Cornwall Council are calling for central government to stop disadvantaging councils and ensure funding properly reflects their needs.

Plymouth’s funding, which does not reflect factors such as relatively high levels of deprivation in the city, has seen its Revenue Support Grant from the Government fall from £76.6 million in 2013/14 to a projected figure of £5.6 million in 2020/21.

There will be no revenue support grant at all for 2018/19 as Plymouth is part of the Devon business rates pool, which has been selected to pilot a Government scheme for its proposed move towards councils retaining 100 per cent of business rates collected instead of receiving grants.

Like many other larger councils Plymouth is seeing massive pressure in funding the rising cost of adult social care as demand rises due to our aging population.

The cost of providing adult social care services in Plymouth has risen by a further £4.8 million for 2018/19 and will continue to rise in future years due to the rising age of the population and the need to pay care staff the National Living Wage.

A three per cent Council Tax precept to pay specifically for adult social care would raise just over £3 million towards this gap in funding services for vulnerable adults needing care and support, leaving the Council to find other savings to cover the extra costs.

While last week the Government announced an additional grant of £150 million nationally for social care, Plymouth’s share was only £803,000, which is nearly £500,000 less than last year.

The Council is also having to fund an additional £3.2 million costs of providing care packages and support for vulnerable children.

Other challenges facing the council this year include a reduction of £405,000 in its public health grant and £129,000 its funding to administer housing benefit.

The Council is having to save a total of £10.3 million to deliver a budget for 2018/19, which is equivalent to 5.6 per cent of its budget.

The Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy is projecting a further funding gap of around £20 million in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Councillor Bowyer said: “In Plymouth we have been successful in dealing with the massive challenges that have been thrown at us over the last few years – reduced funding and big rises in demand for our services. We have to be innovative in finding new ways of providing services and joining up with our NHS colleagues, for example, and over four years we have delivered £80 million of efficiencies. Even with all that we are having to manage very significant ongoing gaps in our budget. This cannot be sustained and it is not acceptable to pass all these pressures on to residents through Council Tax or through reduced services. We need the Government to review how it allocates funding for local government to take account of local factors and a realistic look at the pressures we are dealing with.”