Proposals which detail how the council will close a £19million gap in its budget in 2017/18 whilst maintaining services and investing in the city’s future have been published by Peterborough City Council.
The first round of proposals which were published on Friday 28 October, sets out how the council is proposing to meet the challenge.
This includes savings, or additional income generated by the council, totalling £10million as well as using reserves to bridge the remaining gap. These reserves are the result of savings being made in previous years which have been carried forward to support the council’s budget in an era of ever decreasing government funding and increasing demand on services.
However, the council will look to make further savings in the second phase of the budget setting process in the New Year. These savings would aim to reduce the reliance on reserves to close the budget gap for 2017/18 in order to maintain a safety net going forward. The predicted budget gap in 2018/19 is £17.8million.
The phase one budget proposals also include investment in a number of areas either to bolster services already provided, fund unavoidable pressures or to support the growth of the city.
This includes additional money to support children in care until the age of 25 in line with government guidelines and capital investment to work towards a comprehensive redevelopment of North Westgate in the city centre.
Following feedback from the public there is extra money proposed to reintroduce annual city-wide shrub cuts.
Councillor John Holdich, leader of the council, said: "Year after year we are faced with the unenviable task of having to provide more services for an ever growing population with less and less money. To put it into perspective, in the past six years we've seen our government funding cut by £54million, which equates to nearly 50 per cent of our government grant. At the same time our population is growing and, for example, between 2010 and 2021 it’s predicted that the number of people aged 85 and over is set to increase by 52 per cent.
"These phase one budget proposals once again ensure that services for our most vulnerable residents are protected. We have also listened to residents and put money back into the budget to be able to reintroduce annual shrub cutting. I'm particularly pleased that we are proposing to use capital funding to work towards our vision of a regenerated North Westgate.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that the days of councils simply providing services is long gone. The government has told us that the grant they give us will go and we have to, like all local authorities, move towards self-sufficiency. We have a vision to achieve this by being an enterprising and innovative organisation; selling council services to other local authorities to generate income; continuing to take the dividends from growth and investing to make savings in the long-term.
“We still have tough challenges ahead. However, with a clear vision for the future and careful financial management we believe we will see the city continue to develop into the strong and vibrant community we all want.”
Included in the proposals is a recommendation to increase council tax by four per cent, which includes an Adult Social Care Precept of two per cent. The council has frozen council tax for four out of the past six years however an increase is proposed in order to protect services at a time when government funding is reducing.
It is also proposed that a two per cent Adult Social Care Precept is levied. The precept was introduced by government as part of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2016/17 and gives local authorities the flexibility to levy an extra two per cent ‘precept’ on residents to fund the increasing demands for Adult Social Care. This money can only be spent on Adult Social Care, and must continue to be spent on Adult Social Care in the future.
Government expects all local authorities with responsibility for Adult Social Care to levy the precept, and in 2016/17, 95 per cent of councils did so.
This proposed four per cent increase would mean that overall the Band D council tax charge would rise from £1,173.04 to £1,219.84 per year - an increase of 90p per week. The average property in Peterborough is in Band B, meaning council tax would rise from £912.37 to £948.76 per year - an increase of 70p per week.
Councillor David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said: "We know that council tax rises are never popular and in previous years we have gone to great lengths to not ask residents to pay anything more. However, we hope residents understand why we are proposing an increase, as the alternative is having to make even more savings which will inevitably lead to service reductions or some services being removed altogether.
“Although the budget position is currently balanced for 2017/18, this is only with the use of £9million which we put into reserves last year to support budget planning in future years. The budget gap in 2018/19 is £17.8million and therefore further urgent work is needed in phase two of this year's budget setting process to reduce the reliance on reserves and help close the budget gaps in following years.
"We have taken many tough decisions in the past few years and I have no doubt there will be more to come. However, these budget proposals are the product of continued hard work in order to do the best for our residents and I believe they provide a platform for continued growth in the city. Our use of reserves and our plans to bolster this safety net for future tough years ahead illustrate our strong financial management for the benefit of the city and I believe these budget proposals show how successful that approach has been."
Residents are now being asked to read the phase one budget document and get involved in the council's budget consultation by commenting on the proposals.
Cabinet will consider the first phase proposals at its meeting on Monday 7 November 2016.
Comments received up to 5pm on Thursday 1 December 2016 will be considered by Cabinet at its meeting on Monday 5 December 2016. Full Council will then consider the phase one proposals on Wednesday 14 December 2016.
Phase two proposals will be published in January for consultation. Council will then consider these phase two proposals at its meeting on Wednesday 8 March 2017.
People can take part in the budget consultation by visiting the city council's budget consultation webpage. Included is a link to the budget proposals document and an online questionnaire.
Hard copies of the budget proposals document and questionnaire will be available on Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and in each of the city's libraries by the formal launch of the consultation on Monday 7 November 2016.