The man in charge of the city’s finances vowed to continue caring for Plymouth’s children and elderly and to campaign for a better deal – despite the Government’s support grant shrinking to just £9 million.
The revenue support grant has been cut from £76.6 million in 2013/14 to only £9.5 million in 2019/20, leaving local people and business to foot the bill for services that play a crucial role in keeping Plymouth people healthy, safe and well.
Councillor Mark Lowry, Cabinet member for Finance said: “Since 2010 councils have lost 60p out of every £1. The cupboard is almost bare and we have to look at other ways to pay for running our city and our services.
“Over 60 per cent of our budget will go towards looking after our elderly or families who need more support.
“This work isn’t glamorous and won’t make headlines, but it is about giving a helping hand to children who have had a really tough start in life, it’s about trying to tackle homelessness and loneliness and helping those who need.
“This could be your neighbour who lives alone and needs help to get dressed in the morning, it could be your gran or it could be a family whose child has complex physical needs means they need carers to help them do tasks most of us take for granted.”
Plymouth will continue to put pressure on the Government to better fund children’s services, he said, in the face of rising costs of providing care as well as the complexity of need.
Children young people and families have an annual budget of £35 million for Children’s Social Care, of which £21 million is spent on placements. Savings targets for 2018/19 Children’s Social Care are £4.6million.
A small number of high cost packages of tailored care for children with incredibly complex needs added £1.3 million to budget pressures.
He said: “I’m worried that this constant budget pressure means we will struggle to invest in preventative and early intervention work, which is so important to stop families and young people from spiralling into a cycle of misery.”
A draft budget report going to Cabinet on January 15 sets the city’s revenue spend – the amount the Council will spend running the city and its services – at £182.152 million.
The report confirms an unprecedented demand and increased costs in children’s placements, with Plymouth experiencing a large increase in the number of children needing care together with rising costs of residential care.
The draft budget report indicates that councils can increase the Council tax by up to 2.99 per cent and while the Plymouth City Council is working towards a modest rise of 2 per cent, a final decision will not be made until the Council meets on 29 February when the findings of the Scrutiny panels will also be taken into consideration.
The report warned, however, that the police precept – how much the Council collects from residents on behalf of Devon and Cornwall Police – could be increased if the Police and Crime Commissioner decides this should be the case.
It also indicates that officers were still working to narrow the existing budget gap of £4.811 million.
As well the massive reduction of revenue support grant, the Council has had its public health grant reduced by £405,000 and a further drop of £129,000 from housing benefit administration costs.
Councillor Lowry continued: “We’ve had to get creative to make less money go further and look at ways to bring more in. We have made huge changes within our organisations to make money go further.
“We saved £80 million over the last four years by transforming how we deliver services. Better use of digital technology and online services means we can reduce staff costs, for instance.
Closer working with other organisations through better commissioning and teaming up of back office functions has helped saved £27 million, thanks to our integrated health and wellbeing agenda, he said.
The work to grow the city’s economy and business has also helped keep service cuts at bay, he added: “We expect to generate almost £42 million pounds through the New Homes Bonus, council tax from homes built as well as new business rates. People often ask us why does a city need to grow – it helps us pay the bills.”