An action plan to help tackle a £35m budget shortfall next year has been agreed by Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet.
The council is facing the shortfall after seeing the cost of care soar by £100m in ten years – at the same time as national funding to councils has continued to fall.
Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said after already reducing running costs by £240m in the last nine years, they now had no choice but to press ahead with some difficult proposals, unless additional funding is secured, as legally the council must balance its books.
“Staffordshire is a well-run council which has helped deliver a strong economy, low unemployment, improving schools, a good children’s service and better jobs and training opportunities, all with one of the lowest county council taxes in the country.
“In the last decade we have seen the funding needed to look after children in our care and provide adult social care increase by £100m. The national funding needed to do this has simply not kept pace, leading to councils like ours facing some extremely difficult decisions about how we can balance the books.
“Our proposals mean we will still do more to support Staffordshire people than we are legally obliged to, but we are being honest with people about what these proposals will mean if they are implemented.”
As well as pressing for a national solution to the funding of care, the council is also: bidding to be part of a business rates pilot scheme; increasing council tax by 2.95 per cent but still remaining at one of the lowest county council taxes in the country; and looking to play a stronger role in creating the right conditions for housing growth.
Proposals agreed by council to bridge the gap include:
· Review of council back office support staff and focus on frontline services
· Controls on all non-essential spending by on areas such as recruitment, travel and conferences
· A review of all school crossing patrols – with a view to encouraging community funded posts from September 2019
· Offer of concessionary travel post 9.30am only
· Review of highways landscaping
Mike Sutherland, Cabinet Member for Finance added:
“While these are still proposals, it is right that we move forward with our agreed plans to ensure we are able to deliver the savings needed to deliver a balanced budget next year
“We are facing some very difficult decisions around areas such as school crossing patrols and in areas where we can no longer offer funding we plan to work closely with communities to help them find local solutions where possible.”
The council will be working through the proposals with staff, unions and partners as they move forward and consultations with stakeholders and the public will be held on key changes.
The proposals are subject to further revision following the funding allocation from the Local Government Finance Settlement in the New Year. The final budget for 2019/20 will be presented to Full Council In February.