'A budget for growth’ - Council’s proposal for 2020/21 budget

03/02/2020, PR-9282

Wakefield Council’s new leadership team is presenting a budget for growth, investing in the district and its residents.

Cllr Denise Jeffery
Cllr Denise Jeffery

In their first budget the Leader, Cllr Denise Jeffery and Deputy Leader, Cllr Jack Hemingway are proposing to invest a revenue budget of over £248m that will ensure no cuts to frontline services; delivering on their commitment to support residents and the district to thrive.

An updated capital investment programme will also see £416m spent over the next three years on schemes that include improvements to the district’s roads, energy saving street lighting, schools, a new leisure facility and the Council’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Commenting on the proposals, Cllr Denise Jeffery said: “My Cabinet and I care about our residents, our communities and our district. We want to deliver investment that will support everyone to have the best quality of life and create a vibrant place where people and businesses thrive, now and in the future.

“Tackling poverty is at the forefront of our agenda. Increased living costs and continued changes to welfare benefits mean that many of our residents need us more than ever now. We have a strong track record in supporting people who need our help but will be significantly increasing our efforts this year by allocating almost £1million to support people to get out of poverty, because in this district, I believe everyone should get the chance to thrive.”

“There will be no cuts to frontline services and our intention is to increase and improve services wherever possible.

“Almost 2000 people shared their views in the budget survey and we thank everyone for taking the time to do this. We have listened, and what matters most to residents is firmly on our agenda. The revenue and capital budget will see some of the biggest sums invested in the areas that people feel are important. This includes keeping the district’s streets and neighbourhoods clean, looking after adults and children, and maintaining our roads.

“We are also proposing to invest around £700,000 in enforcement to strengthen our ability to tackle anti-social behaviour and other issues, as we know this matters to many people.”

The 2020/21 budget will see £18m invested to support the Council’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, a commitment made in May 2019 when Wakefield Council declared a Climate Emergency.

The Deputy Leader, Cllr Jack Hemingway, who also has political responsibility for Climate Change explained: “Under our leadership we are determined that Wakefield Council will play its part in protecting the environment for generations to come. What we do now and over the next few years will have a fundamental impact on our future.

“The Council will have to work differently and we will need to be prepared to make some bold decisions.

“This investment will help support some of the early but significant changes we need to make, as well as ensuring we can continue and improve work on our parks and green spaces, improving the district’s air quality and environment.”

To deliver a balanced budget Wakefield Council is tackling a gap of £20.9m in 2020/21. The budget challenge is caused by risings costs, like inflation, and a continued significant demand for services that look after some of the district’s most vulnerable younger and older people.

Wakefield Council will deliver over £9m of efficiencies, savings and additional income to help meet the budget gap. The district’s excellent housing growth will also help tackle the challenge, generating an extra £2.2m of additional Council Tax.

An extra £4m of reserves are also being prudently released to support the district and minimise the impact of the budget gap on residents.

A Council Tax increase of 1.99% and an Adult Social Care Precept of 2% is being proposed for 2020/21. This would make the total increase 3.99% - an extra 71p per week for a Band A property.

Cllr Denise Jeffery said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the Government continues to fail our older and vulnerable people. We absolutely need the long-term and sustainable solution they have promised so that all local authorities, and our NHS partners, can meet the increasingly complex care needs of our aging population. The Government’s stop-gap fix means that Council tax payers are being asked, yet again, for a financial contribution.

“Many of those who took apart in the budget survey understood the need to increase charges if we are to continue our services and look after our most vulnerable. Despite the proposed increase we believe Wakefield will still have one of the lowest Council Tax levels in West Yorkshire.

“Through this budget, and the caring approach that our Council will adopt, we will continue to pull together to do our very best, with the resources available to us, to improve the lives of the district’s residents.”

The budget proposals for 2020/21 can be found in full at https://www.wakefield.gov.uk/about-the-council/budget-and-spending/council-budget

The budget will be discussed at Council’s Cabinet meeting on 11 February starting at 10.30am followed by Budget Council on 26 February at 2pm. Both meetings can be viewed live or later at www.wakefield.gov.uk/livestream