No reduction to services as council reveals budget plans

Final proposals which detail how the council will save £24.1million to balance its budget for 2016/17 have been published by Peterborough City Council.

No reductions to services are being proposed by the council even in the face of increasing demand and reduced government funding.

In fact extra investment is being proposed to improve a number of services for residents including street cleaning, public transport and city parks.

The second round of plans, published today, sets out how the council is proposing to close the remaining £12million budget gap for next year.

The budget deficit was reduced by an initial £12.1million during phase one which was agreed at the end of the last year.  However, a further £4.5million of financial pressures have been identified since then which are also being addressed.

To generate income and further increase the number of houses being built in the city, the council is proposing to build new homes as part of a joint venture.

In order to protect services, the council is proposing to increase council tax for only the second time in six years. The proposal is to increase council tax by two per cent, as well as levying the government’s Adult Social Care precept of two per cent.

Even with a four per cent rise residents would still be paying one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country.  

Other proposals include an increase in some city centre car parking charges and changes to council staff's terms and conditions. No additional redundancies are proposed.

If savings plans are approved by Council, some of the savings will be achieved early, and the benefit can be rolled forward to support the 2017/18 financial year. This is currently expected to mean that the 2017/18 budget deficit would be around £5.3million.

Residents are now being asked to read the phase two budget document and get involved in the council's Budget Conversation by commenting on the proposals.

Councillor John Holdich, leader of the council, said: "To deliver a budget with service improvements, rather than reductions, is the product of continued hard work to do the best for residents and the city as whole. However the council, like all of local government and the public sector, has many challenges still to overcome in future years.

“We have frozen council tax for four of the last five years. If we hadn’t, a typical Band D homeowner in Peterborough would be paying £116 more on their bill by now. But in order to protect and improve services, especially the care we provide to the elderly and most vulnerable in the city, we are asking residents to pay more from next year.

“That will mean a rise of between about 70 to 90 pence a week for most residents. However, we are continuing to protect those on the lowest income by making no changes to our Council Tax Support Scheme. In addition, we are introducing a Hardship Fund to help those who find themselves in difficult circumstances."

The council has now seen its government funding cut by around 50 per cent since 2010 - a reduction of £54million.  By 2019/20 this reduction is likely to be around £67million.

The proposal to levy the government's Adult Social Care precept is being made due to increasing demand on council care services. 

Between 2010 and 2021 it is predicted that the number of people aged 85 and over in the city will increase by 52 per cent. As life expectancy increases older people are living with multiple long-term conditions associated with ageing.

For example, the number of people in Peterborough living with dementia is expected to increase by 15 per cent by 2020.

There are also growing numbers of residents living with a learning or other disability.

Councillor David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said:  "We are committed to ensuring that the services we deliver are improved rather than cut back. Through strong financial management, and taking difficult decisions early on, this is exactly what we have achieved for residents in this budget.

"There is much more work to be done and the financial challenge for councils is constant, but we know that local authorities must become more self-sufficient. That is why we are focused on achieving efficiency through innovation; generating income in a variety of ways; and driving growth in the city.

"I am especially pleased that we are proposing to start building houses, to provide homes for residents as well as generating income to protect services.

"We have been unable to propose a council tax freeze again this year, in part because the government is no longer offering the freeze grant we have used in previous years, and due to the increasing demand on services and continued reduction in funding.  By raising council tax now we can continue to protect the most vulnerable in this city as well as maintain, and improve, the services we deliver for all residents."

The proposed four per cent increase would mean that overall, the Band D council tax would change from £1,128.03 to £1,173.15 per year, an increase of 87p per week. The average property in Peterborough is in Band B, meaning council tax would change from £877.36 to £912.45 per year, an increase of 67p per week.

‚ÄčThe council tax bill that households in Peterborough receive also includes elements from Police, Fire and in some cases Parish Councils. The actual increase that households face will depend on decisions taken by these bodies.

Cabinet will consider the first phase proposals at its meeting on Monday 8 February 2016 and formally ask people to comment on the proposals and take part in the Budget Conversation.

The consultation will close at 5pm on Monday 7 March 2016. Council will consider the phase two proposals on Wednesday 9 March 2016.

People can read the full budget proposals and take part on the Budget Conversation page.

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 8 February.

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