Mayor Ros Jones has announced her draft budget proposals for 2019/20 and whilst the financial challenges are getting harder each year, keeping Doncaster thriving as a place to live, learn, work and invest is still very much part of the future.
Through hard work, expertise and the use of one off funding, the proposals set out the plan to balance the books for 2019/20 but within this it is clear that the focus on finance is never ending and further work is still needed to meet the increasing budget gap for 2020/21.
Government grant cuts, rising demand for services and an increase in costs, will see Doncaster Council face an estimated £21 million budget gap in 2019/20, and a further £13 million in 2020/21 taking into account the impact of using one-off funding in 2019/20. By 2021 this will take the total budget gap the council has had to bridge to a staggering £272 million, since Government austerity measures started in 2010/11.
Mayor Ros Jones said:
“Despite the cuts, Doncaster has amazing initiatives and a promising future. We have delivered some impressive schemes and projects for local people without losing our strong financial grip including securing a University Technical College (UTC), starting work on our new library and museum and completing phase two of Great Yorkshire Way. We have also continued with joining up health and social care and have created the ‘Complex Lives Team’ to support people who are homeless, along with introducing initiatives that help ensure children get the best start in life.
“I firmly believe that despite funding reductions from central government there are exciting times ahead and I am determined to keep this pace to take Doncaster forward. So far we have cushioned the blow as much as we can but further government cuts mean the pain will be felt locally so we have to start planning independently from the Government. Our funding from central Government will have more than halved by the end of this decade compared to what it was at the start and there’s more demand than ever before for our services. Austerity is absolutely not over for us, we’ve got less staff and less money than ever before so the decisions about what we can fund, continue to do or stop doing get tougher every year.
“The Government has no plans for 2021 and at the moment it is a guessing game. This is no way to run a government, the NHS has got a 10 year plan and that is what we need for Local Government.
“In 2019/20 we are proposing to meet the increasing costs due to the rising demand for Adults, Health & Wellbeing and Children’s Services. This will be challenging to achieve but is a necessity so that we can continue to support our residents who are most in need.
“As always we will protect jobs and frontline services where we can, help the vulnerable and wherever possible continue with the services that matter most to our residents but to do this we will have to work together, capitalising on the good work of our local community and voluntary sector.”
The draft proposals would potentially see 76 full time equivalent post reductions over the next two years. The council will initially look to delete vacant posts, then seek voluntary redundancy, then redeployment with compulsory redundancy being the absolute last resort.
The budget also includes an increase in council tax of 4.99% in 2019/20, which will generate £5.3m to help meet the budget gap. This includes a 2.99% council tax increase and a further 2% increase through the government’s social care “precept” which contributes towards the pressures for adults, health & wellbeing. The overall increase equates to an additional 82p per week for Band A and £1.23 per week for Band D.
Doncaster will still have one of the lowest council taxes in councils of our size in the country (7th lowest in 2018/19) and the lowest in South Yorkshire.
The reports due to come forward in March also include a one percent reduction in council house rents from April.
Despite the difficult budget situation, the Mayor has made it clear that the council must remain focused on Doncaster’s ambitions with £330 million capital spend planned over the next four years. Residents across Doncaster will benefit from investment in projects to further improve education, housing, infrastructure, retail, leisure and culture, as well as attracting investors and visitors to the borough. All of these will contribute to growing Doncaster’s economy and improving people’s ability to access opportunities.
The Mayor’s draft proposals will be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee on the 7 February and then Cabinet on 12 February before they are discussed at Full Council on March 4 2019. The proposals can be viewed at www.doncaster.gov.uk/budget
- Category: Council & democracy