ALMOST £350 million will be spent on social care in Staffordshire next year to support vulnerable adults and children – the highest figure in the county’s history.
Although two-thirds of Staffordshire’s net budget is earmarked for social care, Staffordshire County Council is also proposing to invest millions of pounds in business sites, superfast broadband, roads and schools.
Leader Alan White said the council’s priorities were to support those in need of help and to use its resources to get communities and businesses moving again after the pandemic.
As well as being the delivery point for national schemes to support Staffordshire businesses, the county council will continue with local initiatives to support local business need.
Speaking as he announced the proposal of a 4.99 per cent increase in council tax for 2021/22, Alan White said:
“The pandemic has affected so many of us in different ways and we are entirely focused on helping our residents now and in the future.
“We will listen to what matters and invest time and money in our communities so they can help themselves and each other.
“At the same time we will carry on investing in schools, business parks, roads and broadband to get the economy moving again so that existing businesses can thrive and new ones prosper to create good jobs and opportunities for a better life.”
Other investment for 2021/22 includes:
- continuing localised support for business with emergency grants, start-up support and rent relief at Enterprise Centres;
- working with the Federation of Small Businesses to provide free ‘back office’ support for a year;
- continuing to provide adult retraining opportunities;
- completion of the Stafford Western Bypass;
- completion of the i54 business park extension;
- continuation of the Lichfield Southern Bypass;
- rolling replacement of conventional bulbs in street lights with LED lighting to save energy and cut costs;
- additional expenditure on the roads budget to deal with winter weather and more money to tackle weeds and kerbside maintenance;
- creation of cycleways and improvements for pedestrians in urban areas;
- opening a new primary school in Tamworth and work beginning on two new schools in Uttoxeter and Fradley.
The £346.2 million allocated to care for the elderly, adults in need of support and vulnerable children and young people is 65 per cent of the county council’s net budget and is an increase of approximately £26 million on 2020/21.
To reduce some of the costs in this sector, the authority has begun:
- work on increasing availability of affordable adult care provision for those the council funds;
- providing more support for families so children can remain with loved ones where it is safe to do so rather than be moved into care;
- provision of a new children’s home in Stafford;
- changing policy for Special Educational Needs and Disabled (SEND) pupils so they are educated closer to home at their local mainstream school;
- working with three neighbouring councils to increase the prospects of looked after children finding permanent homes.
Alan White said:
“In line with the rest of the country most of Staffordshire’s budget is spent on the provision of social care for the elderly and for vulnerable children and young people.
“We are a well-run council but next year social care will again account for two-thirds of our expenditure and the need to fund this is responsible for more than half of the proposed increase in council tax.
“The growing demand in this sector is a national challenge rather than a local one and we need central Government to take the lead in finding sustainable long-term solutions.”
The proposed increase of 4.99 per cent comprises a 1.99 per cent general increase and three per cent ring-fenced for social care.
This year, Staffordshire has the third-lowest county council tax in England and, if approved, this increase equals £1.24 a week for a Band D property.