A formal consultation process is now under way as Nottingham City Council seeks to make £28m of savings and balance its 2022/23 budget.
The authority’s Executive Board discussed and approved its first stage of consultation proposals today (Tuesday) and the public now has the opportunity to offer views until 10 January, 2022.
Councils across the country face financial challenges from rising demand for services and lower levels of grant, as seen in recent authoritative reports from the Local Government Association, Institute for Fiscal Studies and Age Concern.
In Nottingham, the City Council is now receiving more than £100m less per year in its main Government grant compared with eight years ago.
The council has made £303m of budget savings since 2010 and been left £19.4m out of pocket through not being fully compensated for income lost as a result of tackling Covid. It means that difficult decisions must be made and proposals formally put forward today include:
- Reducing play and youth services, saving £615,000
- Closing six Children’s Centres and moving to a hub model of three centres, saving £331,000
- Reducing the frequency of some Linkbus services and increasing Medilink fares, saving £371,000
- Maintaining one free residential car parking zone permit and introducing an administration charge for second and third parking permits, saving £412,500
- Introducing a proposed charge for bulky waste, including discount schemes, saving £80,000.
These along with a number of other proposals would, if agreed, contribute £12.2m towards the financial gap, with further plans to close the remaining £15.7m to come forward early in the new year.
The council awaits the announcement of the Government funding settlement and so there is some uncertainty around the medium to long-term funding available. The proposals which went to today’s Executive Board involve a workforce reduction of 91 full-time equivalent posts – 23 of which are vacant posts.
The council is considering a 1.99% basic council tax increase as well as implementing the Government’s 1% social care precept towards the rising demand of statutory adult care services, which along with caring for vulnerable children now accounts for two-thirds of the council’s entire budget.
This means that it is becoming harder for councils to sustain other services that are important to local people, such as tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, parks and keeping streets clean.
The council also reported progress towards finalising a balanced Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for the next four years at Executive Board. This is a vital part of the council’s response to the Non-Statutory Review and its own Recovery and Improvement Plan and underpins all future work to deliver services. Following feedback from consultation, the full MTFP report will be presented to the February 2022 Executive Board.
The City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Sam Webster, said: “Like other councils across the country, we are facing extremely difficult decisions about the services we provide, unless the Government provides adequate funding in the forthcoming Financial Settlement.
“It’s important to stress that the proposals we are putting forward are not set in stone and are for genuine consultation over the coming weeks. We want to hear the views of local people and how changes will affect them and their communities.
“What is clear is that, as demand for vital statutory services continues to rise, we simply cannot maintain the level of all the services we feel are required for Nottingham.
“Councils of all types are facing the same problems, not least of all because one of the main statutory services we have to provide – care for the elderly – is not being properly funded through national taxation. Instead it is being inadequately funded by adding an extra charge to Council Tax bills – amounting to £211 more on Band D bills over the last six years.
“We have a legal and moral duty to deliver care services to Nottingham’s elderly residents when they need it and we are having to shift resource to cover the rising cost of looking after the growing numbers of children who are in the care of the council.
“Until this and the wider underfunding of councils is addressed, local taxpayers are quite wrongly being made to pay more and getting less.”