Being more commercially savvy, an efficiency drive and a 2.99 per cent Council Tax rise look set to help Calderdale Council to balance its books when it sets its budget for 2019-20.
If approved – councillors from all parties are invited to consider the proposals and will have to vote on them at Budget Council on Monday, February 25 – the budget will protect the borough’s most vulnerable people and the limit impact on front line services, said Leader of the Council, Coun Tim Swift.
But Calderdale people will be consulted about the future structure and and management of the council in the years following, with areas where the council might have to consider how it will fund services coming under the spotlight.
Savings options beyond 2020 range from reviewing what support the council is able to give voluntary organisations, community groups and parish councils to restricting waste collection and disposal services.
Unveiling the proposals at last night’s meeting of the council’s Cabinet, Coun Swift (Lab, Town) said at a time of uncertainty over how local authorities were to be funded, choices were not easy to make.
Some extra funding in some areas from central government in areas like social care and other financial changes which were benefiting the council had meant the situation had improved slightly but still raised enormous challenges.
To balance a “standstill” budget in 2019-20 the council needs to find £0.9 million in savings and believes it can do so by operating more commercially to maximise its income and resources and working more efficiently including greater use of technology and equipment to reduce costs.
But with officers warning councillors that more savings of £6.7 million in 2020-21 and £7.6 million in 2021-22, unless the way Government funded councils changed, there were no easy options going forward, he said.
Coun Swift said the council’s budget had reduced by more than £100 million since 2010 and the public consultation about it operated going forward would be held later in the year when there was greater certainty about Government funding levels.
“The ‘additional’ funding announced in the autumn budget for social care and highways must be balanced against plans previously set out by the Government which means that overall central funding to Calderdale is continuing to reduce.
“In short, the amount of central government funding coming back to Calderdale next year will be less than half the amount that we received in 2010-11 and demand for our services, which protect the most vulnerable people in our communities, continues to rise.
“However whilst its inevitable in these circumstances that we are forced to make savings in some areas we will continue, wherever possible, to minimise the impact on front line services, protecting those that local people have told us they value the most,” said Coun Swift.
The budget 2019-20 proposals also allow for an extra buffer in some key areas, with additional council money allocated to cover expected rising demand and costs in adults and children’s social services, which the council has a legal duty to provide.
It also allows for extra provision of £500,000 for winter maintenance if it is needed and the council resolves to keep to its commitment to pay social care providers and additional £1.3 million in 2019-20 to raise staff pay, improving terms and conditions and helping reduce poverty and inequality.
Government allows councils to increase Council Tax by up to three per cent – councils wishing to raise it above that level would have to hold a referendum to do so.