We will spend almost £232 million on services next year, featuring boosts to protect our climate and environment, support for vulnerable residents and local high streets, after the 2020/21 Budget was agreed at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 12 February.
The Budget sets out how we will spend £231.943 million on services over the coming year, as well as exploring new initiatives to help the council rise to the challenge of the climate emergency. As well as the Revenue funding – spending on routine services and the day-to-day operation of the council – the Budget papers outline £145.116 million in Capital spending in 2020/21. Capital spending is the investment in things like roads and building projects.
The spending plans also outline how a further £219.189 million will be spent on council-run schools across the district.
Councillors approved an increase in Council Tax of 3.99 per cent, which will be used to support the continued delivery of quality services. As has occurred in previous years, an element of this increase is a precept, which will be spent exclusively on meeting the growing costs and demands for social care support for our most vulnerable adult residents. This year that precept is 2 per cent. It means the South Gloucestershire Council element of Council Tax for a Band D property for 2020/21 will be £1,543.37.
We are committed to prudent forward planning of our finances and the Budget papers project, based on what is known so far about the future of local authority funding, that our financial position will be balanced for the next two years, assuming the delivery of the ongoing savings and transformation plans, designed to ensure we deliver the services people need and achieve the best possible value for money. Over the next two years the council will make use of its existing reserves and generate extra income where we are able.
The medium term – years two and three in the projections in these Budget papers – continue to contain challenges in order to balance the books. These are caused by continued falls in government grants and increased costs and demand for services, most notably across social care services. The government has yet to outline the details of a new funding formula for councils in England, which may be beneficial to South Gloucestershire, but work is ongoing to manage demand for costly social care support by investing to make earlier interventions where residents find themselves in need of help, as well as to build extra capacity to deliver services within the district.
While the financial situation continues to be tightly managed, a range of new spending commitments have also been agreed, including:
• £27.668 million in Capital spending on schools and to further improve school standards across South Gloucestershire, which is the council’s number one priority
• In response to the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency last year, we will seek to begin a series of initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of our services, which we will design after consultation with partners and stakeholders. Funding has been set aside for various areas, including an initial £1.7 million investment to directly respond to the Climate Emergency through research, improving policy, and initiating new or scaling up projects, with a further £6 million being invested over four years to support Green schools, Green Communities and Open Spaces and Green Transport
• £8.048 million in additional funding for the Children Adults and Health department, in order to meet the continuing growth in demand and cost for services to support our most vulnerable residents. In addition, there is £1.635 million for projects that will help us to manage this demand, including £457,000 to support the recruitment and retention of our own, directly employed social workers, todeliver vital support to children, adults and families, and reduce our reliance on more expensive agency staff
• £300,000, in addition to the £100,000 carried over from last year, to support project to reinvigorate high streets, aligned with the objectives for the WECA ‘Love our High Streets’ programme being implemented in Kingswood
• £130,000 for enforcement of anti-littering laws. This will build on the success of our expanding and effective Envirocrime team and protect our local environment by acting to prevent and deter littering
• £30,000 in grants, which will be made available to support community groups and others wishing to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day this year.
Overall schools funding for South Gloucestershire will increase by £11.371 million in 2020/21 compared to last year. There will be significant spending increases in the High Needs Block, which is focussed on support for children with special education needs and disabilities, as well as in the general Schools Block, which provides base funding to council-run schools. This means that we will be able to keep working to improve specialist support for those students with additional needs, as well as delivering at least the minimum per pupil funding of £3750 for Primary and £5000 for Secondary school pupils across the district.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Toby Savage, said: “We are pleased to have put forward and agreed a balanced budget, which will continue to invest in and deliver the services our communities have told us are important to them.
“At the same time, we remain committed to delivering the best possible value for money, while also taking action to respond to the climate emergency and improve our local environment, which is an investment in all our futures.
“We have been able to increase spending in some key areas this year, including on schools, where we continue to work hard to deliver our number one priority, which is to drive up educational standards for all. That is just part of our focus on the future, which is why we are also taking steps to play our role in combatting climate change as well as cleaning up our communities and investing in our high streets.
“While there is always more to do, I am pleased that residents’ satisfaction with how we are delivering value for money has risen by 10 per cent this year. We are resolved to build on this, to make sure communities are aware of the work we are doing, the services available and how they can contribute to the decisions ahead.”
The Budget was agreed at the meeting of Full Council on Wednesday 12 February 2020. Papers for this meeting, including the Budget, are available on the Council website at: https://council.southglos.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=143&MId=12923