Wednesday 24 July 2024
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City council meets to approve where £28m of savings will fall this year

Councillors met in the city to approve £28m of budget savings.

Nottingham City Council needs to close a £28m funding gap this year to balance its books and prove it is ‘financially resilient.’

Councillors gathered at Nottingham Council House on Monday, 7 March to approve this year’s budget.

Plans included a Council Tax rise of 2.99 per cent, which equates to £56.77 for a band D property and £37.85 for band A homes.

The authority will also charge residents to take away their bulky waste – a £20 booking fee per appointment – and for parking a second (£35) and third car (£50) on residential streets outside their homes.

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Other plans on the table include closing five of its nine children’s centres, as well as reducing the number of youth workers in the city.

Some bus services will also be reduced on the Locallink and Worklink services, a public toilet at Victoria Embankment will close, and community centre grants will be slashed to save money.

The council will also cut 63 FTE ( Full Time Equivalent ) of its staff, although 27 of these posts are currently vacant.

The Labour-run authority said it was facing a rise in demand for children and adult social care coupled with a significant reduction in government grants.

Cllr David Mellen, leader of the council, said: “This is the 13th budget in a row where we have had to face significant cuts. Years of austerity and years of underfunding has made the challenge we face significantly harder.

“Since 2010/11 Nottingham’s core settlement from government has fallen by £145m. It gives me no pleasure in sending this report this afternoon.

“Despite the difficult decisions in this budget our priorities remain – you will see more council houses being built, houses made to be more energy efficient, and our ambitious plans to regenerate the south side of the city – and complete our new Central Library.

“After two years of fear generated from the worldwide pandemic we are now sadly risking further fear for our communities with these proposals that we are having to put forward.

“It will mean there are less opportunities to support families and to get in early before crisis comes along where more expensive intervention will be needed.

“They are proposals we would rather not make – but in our current financial situation ones we must see through.”

Cllr Kevin Clarke, opposition leader of Nottingham Independents, said these proposals provide “further embarrassment for the authority.”

He said: “Let’s not deceive ourselves – this budget is punitive and is punishing. Once again asking the people of Nottingham to pay up and receive less. We hear nothing from this Labour group other than them being champions of the common man but your actions continue to worsen the situation.

“Yes. Covid has made things worse. Yes, budgets from central government are far from adequate – but you are treating the people of Nottingham with contempt when you are trying to pretend you have no part to play.”

He cited how £17.5m had been pumped into the Broadmarsh shopping centre before it collapsed and how an anticipated £38m was wasted on Robin Hood Energy, which went bust in January 2020.

Cllr Andrew Rule, opposition leader of the Conservative group, added: “The position would be far less uncertain if the council was still not subject to the enduring legacy of Robin Hood Energy and the impact of its failing on council reserves. To continue to prop up Robin Hood Energy this executive were responsible for depleting the reserves.”

He also raised concerns about the longterm impact of the closure of children’s centres, which he fears will lead to further financial problems later on.

Labour councillors criticised both parties for failing to come up with any amendments or put forward their own balanced budget.

The council carried out an eight-week consultation on the proposed savings for this financial year. It had planned to close six of its nine children’s centres.

It has now decided to close five children’s centres.

The centres proposed for closure, unless another provider can be found, are Aspley (Amesbury Circus), Aspley (Minver Crescent), Bilborough, Bulwell and Sneinton.

A second consultation on the proposals will run until 22 April before a final decision is reached.

It has also decided to retain three additional staff in play and youth services ensuring there are 15 youth workers plus a manager providing city-wide outreach.

The council says £28m of savings are needed for 2022/23 rising to £38.1 million in 2025/26.

Cllr Sam Webster, portfolio holder for finance said: “We’ve had to make over £300m of budget savings since 2010, but this was the toughest year yet requiring incredibly difficult decisions about services that we know are valued by local people.

“We made some changes to the proposals after listening to feedback through the public consultation and have done all we can to soften the impact on service users.

“Unfortunately, like many councils across the country, we have faced extremely challenging circumstances due to a decade of unprecedented reductions in government funding and the growing demand for some key council services, especially care services for older people.”

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