As the Government’s austerity measures continue to bite, Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones has made managing the finances shrewdly the cornerstone of her draft 2017/18 revenue budget proposals.
Government grant cuts, rising demand and inflation will see an estimated £26million gap in the council’s budget in 2017/18.
This is on top of the £109million budget gap which the Mayor fixed in her three-year budget for 2014/15 to 2016/17, through major efficiency savings and the modernisation of council services.
Commenting on her budget proposals, Mayor Ros Jones said: “We may have had a change of Government, but I am afraid this has not changed the overall situation we face. There is no let up in Government cuts to council budgets, despite the very clear evidence we all see daily of rising prices and increasing demand for services.
“Over the next four years, this means Doncaster Council will need to meet a further annual budget gap rising to £70million in 2020/21. When you consider we have already taken over £200million out of our annual revenue budget since the Government austerity measures began, this makes the task in hand even more challenging.
“It certainly doesn’t get easier to produce a budget which invests in our future but protects the most vulnerable and the services that matter most for local people. However, that remains our focus and the success of our financial planning over the past few years means we are in a stronger position than many other local authorities to deliver a budget which gets the balance right.
“By taking an innovative, prudent and robust approach, we have managed to minimise the impact of these cuts on local residents, whilst focusing on our goals of delivering efficient and effective public services, supporting our most vulnerable residents and creating the right conditions to drive new jobs, economic growth and housing. I am determined that we will continue this approach for the benefit of Doncaster.”
In her draft proposals the Mayor indicates where finances can be saved to meet the budget gap, by continuing to be innovative, making the best use of modern technology, reshaping services and generating more income.
Continuing to roll out modernisation projects will help the council become more efficient and reduce the need for cuts. Examples include the installation of the second phase of the new energy saving LED street lights and a focus on new delivery approaches with more emphasis on prevention and early intervention to reduce demand and costs.
The draft plans once again take account of the impact of the National Living Wage and the Government’s social care ‘levy’ on Council Tax which raises money that must be spent on adult social care.
The Government’s 2% ‘levy’ is an increase in Council Tax in addition to the 1.99% also being proposed.
As context, Doncaster Council spends around £130million every year on adult social care and the new ‘levy’ will raise just under £2million.
Mayor Ros Jones continued: “The actions of successive Governments have left us with little choice but to put Council Tax up. I was particularly disappointed that in the Autumn statement the Chancellor did not deal with the pressing issues facing NHS and social care funding, choosing instead to pass this burden on to local Council Tax payers.”
Doncaster residents currently pay the ninth lowest Council Tax in the country, when compared to other metropolitan districts and unitary councils. Under the draft proposals, the total Council Tax bill for a Band A property would rise by just under £32 per year or 61p a week in 2017/18.
Despite the difficult budget situation, the Mayor has made it clear that the council must also remain focused on key priorities for Doncaster, particularly creating more, well paid jobs, and ensuring that residents are supported to access the new opportunities that are being created.
To continue to invest in Doncaster’s future, the Mayor is proposing to use the council’s Capital Budget to invest in vital improvement works and support new infrastructure. The urban centre masterplan which will transform the town centre and support growth right across the borough is just one example of major schemes the council will be focusing on.
In summing up Mayor Ros Jones said: “There is no hiding from the fact that further difficult decisions lie ahead but I believe these draft budget proposals focus on the key priorities for Doncaster. I have always been clear that the council must live within its means and do the best it can for local people, communities and businesses and this is reflected in these plans.”
“I am committed to ensuring the council continues to be well-run and carefully managed, whilst retaining our public service focus and our ambitions for the borough.”
“Let’s be clear the pain has not gone away nor will it - we have four more testing years of challenges ahead. However, I believe my proposals will get us through to the end of a difficult time and still support Doncaster and its future.
“Doncaster must prosper and thrive in spite of these tough financial times. I am determined to ensure that we continue moving in the right direction, and work together to make that happen.”
The Mayor’s draft revenue budget proposals for 2017/18 and medium-term financial forecast for 2017/18 to 2020/21 can be viewed online at: www.doncaster.gov.uk/mayorsbudget
A period of consultation will now take place which will enable people to put forward alternative proposals prior to the budget being discussed at Full Council on 2 March 2017.
- Category: General