Coun Jane Scullion, leader Calderdale Council: Unpalatable decisions in front of us

Coun Jane Scullion, Leader Calderdale Council. Photo: James MieszkowskiCoun Jane Scullion, Leader Calderdale Council. Photo: James Mieszkowski
Coun Jane Scullion, Leader Calderdale Council. Photo: James Mieszkowski
​​At this time of year local authorities across the country are deep in preparations for their budgets. If residents were a fly on the wall at our council budget meetings, they would see depressed faces.

Coun Jane Scullion, leader Calderdale Council writes:

Over the past 13 years central government have slashed funding for local councils and here in Calderdale we receive, in real terms, £85 million less a year than we did in 2010.

In calculating our available spend the government also assumes we will raise council tax by the maximum allowed by law, taking money direct from household budgets.

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This year’s budget comes at a time when funding is not only being cut, but certain costs are spiralling. ‘Do more with less’ will only get you so far

Legally we must set a balanced budget, and that means taking tough decisions to reduce or cut anything we do not have to provide.

By law, a council must provide certain services. To give a few examples, we must collect recycling, fix roads, and provide social care for vulnerable children and adults.

Social care, in fact, accounts for 70 per cent of our current budget. You may not see that work, but children and adults with complex lives often require high levels of support.

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Demand for these services and the cost of care is rocketing. We have no control over prices charged by private care providers, and we don’t have vast sums of capital to invest in developing in-house alternatives. No easy solutions.

Let me take you through some of the unpalatable decisions which are in front of us.

These are difficult to even think about, but we must consider whether we can afford to keep doing things we are not legally required to do.

Should a council be in the business of owning a sports stadium like the Shay?

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Should we be offering an entirely free stay for residents at a rehab care home when those who are cared for at home usually contribute to costs?

Should we be funding certain social care posts within NHS services?

Should we continue investing in preventative youth justice services, or face consequences later if young people end up in the criminal justice system?

How much should we spend on library books, gritting and street lighting?

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To what extent should we be funding the voluntary sector, given they are often the ‘first line of response’ for residents experiencing hardship?

The simple fact is everything we do is important.

I want you to know we see and hear you. We know many of you are struggling to pay your bills and feed your families.

We know there are more potholes on our roads than we would like following decades of central government underfunding.

And we know you need more reliable public transport.

We may not have immediate solutions, but I want you to know what you can expect from us.

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We promise to be honest; protect services, quality of life, the most vulnerable; and work hard to secure external funding and investment.

Please join us in making the difficult decisions we face by contributing to the budget consultation here: http://tinyurl.com/5c9bk33w

As hard as this is, there is always hope and we are forever ambitious for Calderdale.