Updated proposals balancing service investment with savings have been published by Leicestershire County Council.
The refreshed plan sets out a balanced budget for two years – one year longer than the initial plan – and shows that the difference between income and expenditure will total £79m in 2025, a reduction of £13m.
Now, a one-off £25m covid fund, enabling money to be used if further national funding isn’t available, is included as well as a three per cent Council Tax levy for adult social care. Generating an extra £10m, the Government has given councils this option to offset the impact of significant increases in adult social care costs on other services. This means the budget includes in total a 4.99 per cent Council Tax increase for 2021/22 – or £5.59 a month for a Band D house.
Investment in services including children and family services, adult social care and environment in transport is proposed as well as a £450m capital pot to spend on new roads, school places, recycling initiatives and other infrastructure supporting new homes.
The updated figures reflect further clarity on Government funding, the impact of the adult social care levy and feedback from a consultation.
Councillor Byron Rhodes, cabinet member for finance, said: “These are increasingly tough times. And without local government funding reform, we will have even less room for manoeuvre.
“But our prudent, long-term approach is paying off. And the difficult decisions we’ve taken over the last decade have put us in a better position than many other councils who are floundering.
“Asking residents to pay more is not where we want to be. But if this increase was not taken, service cuts would be the inevitable consequence – and higher Council Tax increases were broadly supported by respondents to our recent budget survey. Unfortunately Government has pushed us in this direction by already assuming Council Tax is increased when calculating their latest assessments of councils’ spending power.
“Balancing the books when you’re the lowest funded county council in the country is difficult. But I believe the budget we’ve set out delivers the services residents depend on. Against a backdrop of lack of reform, coronavirus and rising demand for services there is a danger that we’re pushed very close to the edge, but I am confident that the budget strikes the right balance of financial sustainability and service protection.”
The council’s cabinet will discuss the proposals next Friday (5 February) – watch the meeting online at: www.leicestershire.gov.uk/webcast
The final budget proposals will be agreed by the county council at its meeting on 17 February.
Just under 300 people gave their views in a consultation which closed on 17 January. This showed broad support for the proposed budget including the proposed growth and savings plans and that 55 per cent supported a Council Tax increase of 3% or more.
Budget in more detail
Growing demand for services is expected to increase costs by £60m, including:
• Children and Family Services (£23m) – this is mainly due to pressures on the budget for social care places, which are rising by over 10 per cent a year, and growing social worker caseloads
• Adult Social Care (£13m) – this is largely the result of an ageing population with increasing care needs and a growing number of people with learning disabilities
• Environment and Transport (£4m) – this primarily relates to more SEND pupils requiring transport
The £79m savings are made up of:
• £30m of detailed savings – reducing children and family costs by re-shaping how services are delivered, reducing adult social care costs by simplifying processes and speeding up support, bringing together early help and prevention services – and delivering some in-house and reducing disposal costs by recycling and re-using more waste
• A ‘high needs development plan’ which will reduce SEND costs by £26m
• A £23m gap reduced following the Council Tax increase
A Council Tax increase of 4.99 per cent is proposed (including the 3 per cent adult social care levy) and equates to £5.59 a month for a band D house. Councils can apply a levy of three per cent for adult social care over two years – the proposal is to include a three per cent levy in 2021/22.
Council Tax is the only significant lever available to the County Council to raise additional money to fund vital services whilst balancing the budget
The £450m four-year capital pot sets out plans for sustainable investment across the county including:
• £70m to improve and maintain existing roads and bridges
• £120m for improving transport infrastructure
• £72m for extra school places, including specialist provision for SEND students
• £25m to boost adult social care accommodation that supports people to live independently
• £23m for recycling and household waste initiatives and specific carbon and energy reduction projects
• £71m to invest in property to generate ongoing money for front line services