Council reveals budget proposals for 2016/17

​Date:09/02/2016

PR ref: 6168

Almost every Council service will be affected in the next few years as yet another set of Government cuts hit Wakefield.

After already making savings of £119m, Wakefield Council has set out plans to save a further £27m in 2016/17.

The scale of the financial challenge facing the Council is huge. The 2015 Spending Review made it clear that there are another four years of savings to identify. The Government has said that by the end of this decade, Wakefield Council will have to save £185m.

Despite this fresh round of deep spending cuts Wakefield Council is proposing a £200m capital investment programme up to 2018/19, to secure the future viability of the district.

Cllr Peter Box CBE, Leader of Wakefield Council said: "Many councils are being pushed to the financial edge but we are doing everything we can to prevent that happening in Wakefield.

"We are determined to continue to drive efficiency, be innovative, develop more partnerships, support economic growth and invest in the future of the district.

"However, 2016/17 will see many of the services we provide tested more than ever and the results mean some visible changes to what we do.

"Each year we have managed to divert the impact of the cuts from most of our frontline services. We will continue to do this but the public will start to see a difference."

"Investment will be harder than ever, but it is this focus that will secure the district for the future. This is why we will deliver a £200m capital investment programme to maintain our roads, schools and street lighting, build new leisure facilities, support the creation of affordable housing and regenerate our towns and communities. I will also be proposing to Council that a £700k capital fund is devolved to local areas for small, local infrastructure projects.

"We will continue working with our partners in the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) and the Leeds Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to draw even more funding into the district. Last year we secured major investment for projects like the £33m Wakefield Eastern Relief Road and £3.5m for the University Centre and there are more bids in the pipeline for 2016."

Some of the areas identified for capital investment include:
• £79m in the district's transport and highways infrastructure and street lighting
• £40m in schools
• £15m in leisure facilities in the Five Towns and South East of the district
• £13m on housing and regeneration

Wakefield Council's 2016/17 budget proposals reflect the feedback from residents and businesses who took part in the online budget consultation and those who contacted the Council with their ideas for savings. The feedback included increasing Council Tax and making cuts across the board.

As part of the 2016 /17 Budget, the Council is proposing to increase Council Tax by 1.99%.

Cllr Box said: "Last year, I asked residents and businesses to help us shape our budget around what matters most to them. The feedback has guided our decisions and refocused our priorities.

"It was clear from the budget consultation that the universal services - like bin collections, road repairs, litter clean up and park maintenance - are the services people rely on and value the most, and that they understand the need for these to continue.

"Almost two thirds of the people who took part in the consultation suggested raising Council Tax. We also believe this needs to be done, because if we don't, then the effects of the cuts will be even harsher."

The Government have stated that the funding gap in adult social care should be funded by a 2% 'Social Care precept' on top of the Council Tax. However, the demand on social care is increasing by around 5% each year and over £140m – a major part of the Council's budget – is being spent on social care every year.

A recent report (Centre for Cities 2016) showed that Wakefield is ranked as having the fifth largest percentage of residents aged 45-64 (27.33%) out of the 63 cities measured, and is eighth from the bottom in the percentage of residents aged 20-29 (12.38%).

Cllr Box said: "The 2% Social Care precept will raise £2.1m, which is no more than a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.

"Social care is a huge issue for every council in the country, however with the size of this district's ageing population the funding gap will continue to grow.

"I strongly believe that the responsibility for funding this lies with central government, not local residents.

Staffing levels are also likely to fall again. 2016/17 could see the loss of around 200 posts, with the majority through voluntary redundancy and retirement. This is on top of the 1,425 (FTE) posts already removed. Around 800 staff are also expected to transfer under TUPE to a strategic partner for the provision of the Council's property and facilities services.

Wakefield's Chief Executive, Joanne Roney OBE said: "We have made significant savings on our staffing costs since 2010/11. Over £3.7m has been taken from the monthly pay bill – in real terms - and we have reduced management costs by over 30%."

"Our frontline staff now make up over 80% of our workforce, but with continued staff reductions and funding cuts the impact on the services we provide will be very visible and will be felt across the district."

Savings being proposed include:
• £1.25m by reducing commissioned services and posts in Public Health
• £2m from the delivery of the property and facilities partnership
• £2m by developing a more commercial approach to service delivery
• £50k from a review of home to school transport
• £140k from the possible transfer of three community centres or by examining closure proposals
• £35k by reducing the budget for Council funded events
• £150k following a further review of the district wide provision of libraries
• £150k by ceasing the delivery of the Visitor Information Centre and reducing tourism provision
• £70k by reducing opening hours in leisure centres
• £169k from a review of the car parking policy
• £100k from the reduction of the health and wellbeing service
• £42k by reducing grass cutting
• £30k from an increase on the charge for bulky waste collections
• £15k by increasing the cost of replacement bins

Cllr Box explained: "The biggest savings will come from the fundamental transformation of the way we work. We have already made significant progress in this area but in the future, services will have to be delivered in a different way.

"All services will be affected in some way. However, residents have told us what is important to them and we have worked extremely hard to ensure that the impact on these services is kept to a minimum."

The budget will be discussed by Cabinet on 16 February at a special Cabinet on Tour meeting, held at Castleford Civic Centre from 10.30am. Members of the public are encouraged to attend. The meeting will also be live streamed from the Council website at www.wakefield.gov.uk/livestream

The 2016/17 Budget will be presented by Councillor Box to the meeting of full Council on March 2 and can also be watched on the Council website.

ENDS