Budget 2018/19 – our proposals

22/01/2018, PR8733

Wakefield Council is proposing further changes to services next year to ensure it can deliver a balanced budget.

Yet more Government cuts to the Council’s funding, along with changes to grants, inflation and huge demand pressures in children and adults social care mean that in 2018/19 Wakefield Council has to find another £28m of savings in total.

This is the eighth consecutive year of Government cuts, with over £171m wiped off the Council’s budget. Government grant funding is now 54% less than in 2010.

The Leader of Wakefield Council, Cllr Peter Box CBE, said: “We have seen almost a decade of cuts to our budget by this Government, which has had an unavoidable impact on the services we provide.

“However, we have big ambitions for this district and our residents, and we are determined to drive forward investment where we can.

“Even against the backdrop of huge Government cuts, we are working to create a district of growth. A place in which every resident and community matters. Where people have good opportunities, can access learning to improve their skills and prospects, are healthier, and have decent housing which provides a great place for people to live.

“We also want to play whatever part we can in supporting people out of the poverty and deprivation. Like many places across the country this is an issue which is on the increase in some areas of the district. It is a national problem that requires a solution from the Government. But until they see fit to step up, we will make it a priority to do all we can to be the ladder that helps people out of poverty.

“The financial challenge we face is huge. We have to deliver a balanced budget so we have to make some tough choices. What is important is that we make the right choices for you, your family and this district.”

The initial proposals for this budget have been put forward in response to the feedback from a public consultation where over 1200 residents told the Council which services are the most important to them. The top five areas of Council spend that mattered most to the residents who took part were; preventing and tackling anti-social behaviour (71%), supporting older and vulnerable people (69%), keeping children safe (63%), keeping streets and neighbourhoods clean (60%), keeping roads safe and making it easy to get around (53%).

Cllr Box explained: “The feedback from residents has been invaluable in helping us to identify where we could make changes. Having to find £28m savings, on top of the huge amount of money that has already been wiped off our budget, continues to mean that every area of the Council will be affected in one way or another. However, we have tried to refocus and reduce the impact on the areas people have told us are most important to them.”

Over 60% of Wakefield Council’s entire budget is spent on adults and children’s services. There are demand pressures in all these services and the rising costs of adult social care is presenting a huge challenge to councils across the country.

Cllr Box said: “We have a duty and an unwavering commitment to care for the most vulnerable in our district.

“However, the ever growing demand and spiralling costs for adult social care is relentless and the need for the services we provide for children and young people is also rising at an unprecedented rate.

“We know from the consultation that residents recognise the importance of these services and we thank them for their support, especially as many of them may not access these services themselves.

“Despite our best efforts, including putting significant funding from our budget into adult social care every year, there will still be major financial pressures in this area.

“We have already had to make major changes and must continue to find even more different ways of delivering the services that remain.

“Our children and young people services will also have to continue to change and reduce. This is the only way we can carry on delivering the most fundamental services.”

The Council’s work to keep a strong local economy is paying off. Its support for new business and success in attracting new housing developments mean that it has raised an extra £7m a year to help meet the £28m challenge.

This still means other changes are needed. The consultation showed that 65% of people agreed Council Tax should be increased to support services and 72% said the Council should raise existing charges and introduce new charges for some services that are currently free.

It is proposed that Wakefield’s Council Tax could increase by 2.99% to ensure that the universal services, such as bin collections, street lighting and road maintenance, which make up 95% of all the services the Council deliver, can continue in some form. This would add another 49p each week to Band A properties.

The Council is also considering adding an Adult Social Care Precept of 2%, as the Government has still not put forward any solution to deal with the national funding crisis. This would add another 32p each week to Band A properties.

Cllr Box commented: “This Government has repeatedly failed to offer a solution that delivers proper, sustainable funding for adult social care, forcing councils up and down the country to, yet again, have to ask residents to prop up this national crisis.

“It is woeful that, after eight years of cuts by this Government to council budgets, they now acknowledge that local services need more funding to relieve the pressures. Their only answer is to further increase Council Tax, and if we are to protect the universal services almost every resident relies on, this is something we are forced to do.

“It is clear from the consultation that many of our residents understand the financial struggle all our services face and supported an increase in Council Tax. However, we know that residents’ budgets are also under pressure, which is why our proposed total increase is still lower than the Government allows and will mean that Wakefield’s Council Tax is the lowest in West Yorkshire.”

Changes to Council Tax won’t meet all of the rest of the £28m needed. The Council will still have to change or reduce services to find another £7m of savings.

Staffing levels are set to decrease again with £1.3m saved by further reducing senior management costs and other roles. This means the Council will have reduced its staff by over 1,800 since 2010. Other savings being proposed are:

• Start using LED street lights to save money. £230,000
• Stop the least effective Sport and Health Improvement Programmes. £150,000
• Review of library facilities, mobile and home library services and back office support. £300,000
• Change our bin rounds – keep the frequency the same for everyone but use different times of the day and week. £130,000
• Closer working with the NHS to bring down the cost of residential services for people with learning difficulties. £100,000
• A more efficient highways winter maintenance service, due to improved gritter fleet and improved route planning. £30,000
• Reduce commissioned public health service in line with the reduced Public Health Grant. £430,000
• Reduction in senior management and other roles. £1,320,000
• Reduce the number of our buildings. £130,000
• Reduce how much it costs to deliver our services by being more efficient, for example by using more digital technologies. £870,000

Some of the key proposals to raise money from services include:

• Being more commercial in delivering sports and leisure services, including reviewing some services and increasing fees and charges. £370,000
• Increasing charges for bereavement services. £120,000
• Starting to charge for car parking at some parks. £50,000
• Charging developers more for our planning advice. £30,000
• Charging people more for wanting to use our planning service. £70,000
• Selling our environmental health advice to other organisations. £30,000
• Increasing the charges for people using our registrar services. £30,000
• Increasing the number of commercial waste customers. £200,000
• Maximising opportunities from external funding sources. £480,000
• Increasing income from VAT exemption where possible. £400,000

This year, people will also have the opportunity to comment on the specific suggested savings that could affect residents, before they go to Wakefield Council’s Cabinet on 13 February.

People can see the budget 2018/19 proposals at
www.wakefield.gov.uk/budget

A drop in session, hosted by the Leader of the Council and Cabinet, is being held on 30 January at Wakefield Town Hall between 10.30am and 3.30pm. Residents can come along and comment on the proposals or share their own ideas for savings. People can also comment by emailing
yoursay@wakefield.gov.uk

Contact us

Press Office

Room 11
Town Hall
Wakefield
WF1 2HQ

01924 305 294 or 305 295