PLANS to bridge a £35m funding shortfall and deliver a legally balanced budget have been set out by Staffordshire County Council.
The county council has taken the decision to publish proposals three months early in order to be open with the Government, partners, staff and the public about the huge challenge it faces.
With record spending of £315m on care, at the same time as reduced national funding, the council says it has had to make some incredibly difficult decisions in order to balance the books if additional funding isn’t urgently secured.
Philip Atkins, Staffordshire County Council’s Leader, said: “As a county council we have helped deliver a strong flourishing economy, low unemployment, improving schools, good children’s services and better jobs and training for Staffordshire people – all on one of the lowest council taxes in the country.
“Although we remain absolutely committed to doing all of these, we also have to deal with a most pressing financial challenge of how we can continue to meet the increasing costs of adult social care and children’s care with less money year on year.
“We have already reduced our own running costs by £240m in the last nine years, and the reality is that without urgent additional national funding, we face some extremely difficult decisions in order to meet our legal duty to deliver a balanced budget next year.
“Our proposals mean we will still do more to support Staffordshire people than we are legally obliged to, but we want to be honest and open with people about the reality we may all face if the level of funding we need is not achieved. That is why we are publishing our budget three months early.”
As well as pressing for a national solution to the funding of care, the council is also: bidding to be part of a business rates pilot scheme; increasing council tax by 2.95 per cent but still remaining at one of the lowest county council taxes in the country; and looking to play a stronger role in creating the right conditions for housing growth.
Proposals to bridge the gap include:
- Review of council back office support staff and focus on frontline services
- Controls on all non-essential spending on areas such as recruitment, travel and conferences
- A review of all school crossing patrols – with a view to encouraging community funded posts from September 2019
- Offer of concessionary travel post 9.30am only
- Review of highways landscaping
Mike Sutherland, Cabinet Member for Finance added: “While we are hopeful extra funding will be forthcoming, it is important that we set out plans to ensure we can balance our books for next year – something which all councils must do.
“We are facing some very difficult decisions around areas such as school crossing patrols, but this is just one option we have needed to propose in order to work with the funding we have available.
“Where areas are affected, we will work with communities wherever possible to help them find local solutions.”
The current proposals will be discussed by Cabinet on September 19 and are subject to further revision following the funding allocation from the Local Government Finance Settlement in the New Year. The final budget for 2019/20 will be presented to Full Council In February.