At a meeting of cabinet on Monday (December 7), draft budget proposals were agreed.
The council must save £15.753m to meet the reduction in government funding of an estimated £9m and rising cost pressures, for the next financial year.
However, the cabinet raised concerns at the level of uncertainty caused by the fact that much of the detailed information the council needs to finalise its 2016/17 financial plan and its budget position was not released in the government’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement.
And these savings are on top of the £76m that the council has already had to make in the past five years.
The council has managed the reductions though its ‘Creating a Brighter Future’ programme, designed to meet the major challenges facing the authority and make sure North Tyneside remains a great place to live, work and visit.
This year’s comprehensive proposals – which residents helped to shape – include reducing the number of council-owned buildings that are no longer required, managing demands for care and health services, modernising services and helping residents to help themselves.
The cabinet has included in its plans a two per cent council tax increase to support adult social care costs, as the Chancellor George Osborne announced in his recent Spending Review.
The two per cent increase would raise in the region of £1.5m – the current level of spend for adult social care is over £49m, which is a third of the council’s net budget.
In setting out the proposals, Mayor Redfearn added: “Because of recent budget decisions by the government and legislative changes, the level of cuts that we have to find over the next three years are alarmingly high – more than £51m.
“As a result, we’ve had very tough decisions to make, and the continuing budget reductions mean it is inevitable that there will be a big impact on the level of services we can deliver and that our residents expect.
“We’re in an extremely difficult position as the cuts come at a time when there is a growing demand for some of our most costly services, such as adult and children’s social care.
“Because of this, in line with most other local authorities, we have no other option but to raise council tax for the first time in five years. We are determined to provide excellent value for money, and we will continue to help those who may have difficulty paying the full amount.”
Mayor Redfearn continued: “I want to reassure residents that the council is financially well-managed and we have thoroughly and rigorously considered the proposed changes to ensure that essential services are protected.
“Our well-planned approach focuses on the borough’s long term future – not just making the books balance next year. Every single area of what we do has been examined; we have looked at how we deliver services and how we might do this in the future.
“It’s also important to remember that despite these extremely challenging economic times, North Tyneside is prospering and I am determined this will continue.
“We will still deliver our ambitious plans to regenerate Whitley Bay’s seafront, Spanish City Dome and the Swans site in Wallsend. There is also a massive investment in our roads. We are building new affordable homes and continuing with the impressive North Tyneside Living scheme which is providing more high-quality retirement apartments.
“Our education is excellent; only last week were our first and primary schools rated the best in England by Ofsted, while our middle and secondary schools continue to be recognised as exceptional places for our young people to grow and succeed.
“All of this is improving the borough, bringing new investment, creating jobs and attracting more visitors, which is good news for our local economy.
“Finally, I would like to thank residents for their help in recent months, giving us their thoughts on what our priorities should be and how we could deliver services in the future with less resource. They have demonstrated just how clearly they understand the challenges we face.
“We will shortly be consulting further on these draft proposals and I’d urge everyone to give their views.”
This year’s budget proposals include:
- Modernising how services are delivered and the way in which the council operates through improved technology, innovation and mobile working
- Providing more accessible services online, enabling people to do more for themselves at a time when it suits them, as well as supported access in face-to-face community settings
- Moving to a non-cash-based approach to reduce costs associated with processing payments
- Promote volunteering and to deliver more services in partnership with local community and voluntary sector organisations or groups
- Providing a network of frontline services via high-quality community-based facilities – a one-stop shop approach to provide more services under one roof
- Community-based housing support rather than residential homes or 24-hour wraparound care
- Managing demand for the most costly care and health services through a more preventative approach for both children and adults
- Streamlining access to care and disability support services for adults and children
- Adopting a new approach to childcare
- Developing a new self-funded approach to support the borough’s schools to continue to perform excellently
- Introducing a more targeted and integrated locality-based approach for children and family support services
- Review how environmental areas are maintained.
More information about the consultation will be available shortly atwww.northtyneside.gov.uk.
Cabinet papers from Monday’s meeting can be found here: Cabinet, December 7.
The council must save £15.753m for 2016/17, although this will not be finalised until the final local government financial settlement from the government, expected to arrive in mid-December.