South Gloucestershire Council is proposing to spend almost £216 million on services next year, according to the Budget agreed today (Monday 5 February, 2018). The spending plans recommended by Cabinet also include more than £202 million that will be distributed to schools. The Budget will now be subject to debate and the agreement of Full Council, which will meet on Wednesday 14 February.
The Budget sets out how the Council will spend £215.902 million in the coming year and includes an increase in Council Tax of 5.99 per cent. This means that a Band D property will be charged £1,441.07. The increase is made up of 2.99 per cent as a general increase and a further 3 per cent, which is the Adult Social Care levy. The approximately £9.7 million raised through this levy will be spent exclusively on services supporting the most vulnerable in our community.
The Budget papers show that while the Council’s finances are projected to remain in balance for the coming two years by using reserves set aside for this purpose, challenges remain in the medium term caused by falling government grants and increased costs and demand for services. A significant amount of work is underway to ensure the council can continue to deliver the services people need into the future, and areas for future year savings are set out in the report, despite these challenges.
A range of other spending commitments are also highlighted in the Budget papers, including:
• Additional funding for the Children Adults and Health Department of around £7.7 million, over and above the Adult Social Care levy. This additional funding will help to meet growing demand and particularly continue the investment in improving services for vulnerable children
• Care Leavers are set to benefit from Council Tax relief as well as a programme to promote apprenticeships
• The School Improvement Fund, which pays for interventions in schools to improve educational outcomes, will double, to £100,000
• An additional £25,000 will be made available to support the community voluntary service (CVS South Gloucestershire and the Volunteer Centre Partnership).
Council staff are also set to receive a 2 per cent pay increase as part of the nationally negotiated agreement. Pay restraint has meant salaries have been frozen or capped at 1 per cent for the past seven years. This move will cost the Council £1.9 million in 2018/19, but we want to recognise the excellent work and commitment of our staff in continuing to deliver for the people of South Gloucestershire, while acknowledging that there are ongoing financial constraints on the Authority.
While the Budget is projected to be in balance next year, through the use of financial reserves, there will be shortfalls in future years. To meet these challenges, the Council will undertake further work to make additional savings and bring in additional revenue. It will also look at whether there are further actions and services we can put in place now, to reduce demand in the future by finding alternative ways to support some of our vulnerable residents.
There is still much work before the Council can present these options and opportunities in detail and more information will be brought forward for consideration by Cabinet before the summer. Any options that would have significant impacts on access to or delivery of services, or on staff, would be subject to public consultation and scrutiny by the council.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Matthew Riddle, said: “I am pleased to recommend this Budget to Council. We are prioritising our most vulnerable residents with significant increases in funding for services for vulnerable adults and children.
“These are challenging times, but these plans will mean that the everyday services that we all rely upon will be delivered and we have also made some additional commitments to support schools, care leavers and those looking for a home.
“I appreciate that some will feel the squeeze of rising council tax, but we are continuing to work very hard to make sure we are as efficient as we can be, to make best use of tax payer’s money. Costs are rising, but we are taking steps to keep them under control.”
The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) provided to the council by Government for 2018/19 will be £202.446 million. Although on a per pupil basis, we are the lowest funded local authority, through the new National Funding Formula, the Schools Block (accounting for around 75 per cent of the DSG) will increase by £4.3 million, which is significantly above the national average increase.