South Gloucestershire Council will spend almost £221 million on services next year, after the Budget was agreed at the meeting of Full Council today (Wednesday 13 February). The spending plans also include a further £208 million that will be distributed to schools.
The Budget sets out how the Council will spend £220.992 million in the coming year. This includes an increase in Council Tax of 2.99 per cent, which will be used to support continued delivery of quality services. The South Gloucestershire Council element of Council Tax for a Band D property for 2019/20 will be £1,484.15.
The Budget papers show that while the Council’s finances are projected to remain in balance for the coming two years, this is only by using reserves set aside for this purpose, delivering additional savings and generating extra income. Challenges remain in the medium term, caused by falling government grants and increased costs and demand for services. To help the council in planning for the future, the Budget makes projections for the next four years, implementing contingencies for the long term, to avoid having to make in-year savings due to unforeseen circumstances.
A significant amount of work has taken place to identify where savings might be made in order to ensure that the Council can continue to deliver the services people need into the future. At the same time, we are considering what 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.
A range of additional spending commitments are also highlighted in the Budget papers, including:
• £77.9 million capital investment in local schools across four years to 2022/23, with money prioritised on schemes which will have greatest impact in driving up standards. £17.8 million has been allocated for 2019/20
• £3.2 million of additional funding for social care, with further increases set aside for extra support to deal with the spike in demand for adult social care we see over winter
• £35 million investment in roads and highways over four years, including an additional allocation of £2.3 million for Highway Maintenance schemes
• £714,000 allocated to enhance the services we provide to support vulnerable children and young people for whom the council acts as corporate parent
• Investment in hearing aids for school children with hearing impairments to allow them to continue their learning at home
• £300,000 in additional support to enhance our foster care service. Allowances for foster carers will be reviewed with the aim of providing greater stability for looked after children and young people. Additionally, plans have been put in place to allow us to better support children and young people with more complex needs
• Money prioritised for additional street cleaning, litter picking and graffiti removal. Extra resources will also go towards our work dealing with anti-social behaviour
• Financial support to reinvigorate local high streets.
The new National Funding Formula will see schools funding for South Gloucestershire increase by £3.9 million next year, bringing our Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) to a total of £207.953 million. However, despite this funding increase, the council still receives the lowest per-pupil funding in the country, while at the same time both locally and nationally, the demand for help for children with additional needs is growing significantly. We continue to lobby Ministers for fairer funding, but at the same time are committed to reducing and eventually eliminating the budget deficit, which is expected to rise to around £12.5 million by the end of 2018/19.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Toby Savage, said: “Our goal in setting this budget is to ensure South Gloucestershire continues to be a fantastic place to live and work. I’m passionate about improving educational standards and I’m delighted that we’ll be able to deliver such a significant investment in our schools.
“One of the council’s key priorities is to offer Value for Money to our residents and I believe we are continuing to do so. I am extremely proud that we have not only been able to balance the budget for the next two years, but that we’re also keeping our focus on the quality of services and the delivery of our savings targets.”