Councillors will ‘reluctantly recommend’ an average increase to Council Tax bills of 99p per week when they meet to set the 2017/18 budget next week, as the Government funding they hoped for to tackle the growing social care crisis has not been forthcoming.
Instead, the budget report confirms, that Nottinghamshire County Council’s main source of Government funding, the Revenue Support Grant, will be cut by 39% as part of an overall reduction in Government funding of £22m for 2017/18.
The County Council’s Full Council will meet on 23 February to consider the final spending proposals, which would see the authority commit an extra £14.8m to protect under-pressure social care services for the elderly, children in care and people with disabilities.
However, with demand for care services from an aging population and vulnerable children continuing to rise, along with new costs, such as the Government’s National Living Wage, the extra money is only enough to maintain current services and will provide just a temporary stop gap to the long term funding crisis facing social care and public services as a whole.
The extra investment in social care would largely be paid for by the Council taking up a Government offer to add a 3% Social Care Precept to Council Tax bills and a 1.75% increase in Council Tax, which is in line with Government expectations.
A £3.5m Adult Social Care Grant is being provided by the Government, but this will be at the expense of other public services in Nottinghamshire as it’s being taken from money which was already earmarked for the County and District Councils.
It’s also proposed that the Council uses £27m from its reserves – money saved through improved efficiency and in-year savings – to plug the remaining budget gap. This would protect other County Council services from further cuts in 2017/18, such as road repairs, libraries, children’s centres, street lights, public transport, trading standards and youth services.
The Budget Report, which includes details about the Capital Programme and Medium Term Financial Strategy is available to download now from Nottinghamshire County Council’s website.
Councillor Alan Rhodes, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “This budget comes at the end of a four year term which has been characterised by the double whammy of Government austerity and rising demand. Since 2010, the County Council has had to make savings of £212m as a result of Government cuts and investment required in services, whilst the demand for our social care services for an ageing population, people with disabilities, vulnerable children and school places has rocketed.
“We are reluctantly recommending to go along with the Government’s plan of implementing a 3% social care levy and 1.75% increase in Council Tax from April. I have every sympathy with the hard pressed residents of Nottinghamshire, but the brutal truth is that the Government has put us in a position where the alternative is worse – even more cuts to so-called ‘discretionary services’ such as road repairs and youth services or a failure to fulfill our obligations to vulnerable people.
“A properly funded, long- term national strategy for social care is what is desperately needed – and has been for many years. This has become increasingly recognised by everyone, it seems, except the Government.”
The Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy identifies a further £63m in savings will be required by the County Council by 2020/21.
Councillor Rhodes added: “We will continue to do all we can to minimise the impact of the on-going cuts on frontline services, such as better use of technology, adopting a commercial approach, delivering services in different ways and promoting independence.
“I am proud of how skillfully we have managed finances and what we have achieved over the last four years, but I know that further tough decisions and challenges lie ahead.”
The County Council’s Capital Programme, which forms part of the budget report, includes confirmation that the Council will:
- Commit £5m to rebuild the Orchard Special School in Newark
- Spend £25m on maintaining the condition of roads and implementing transport improvements across the county
- Invest £25m in improving school buildings and providing more school places
- Put £4m towards the creation of a new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre
- Invest a further £3m to make superfast broadband available to more homes and businesses