Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones has set out her proposals to balance the budget for Doncaster Council despite facing another three years of central Government austerity cuts, as she seeks to prudently manage the local authority’s finances and protect frontline services.
Government grant cuts, rising demand for services and an increase in costs, will see Doncaster Council face an estimated £43million budget gap, according to the revenue budget proposals for 2018/19 through to 2020/21. It will take the total annual budget gap the council has had to bridge to a staggering £267million, since Government austerity measures started in 2010/11.
The continued Government cuts are expected to mean further job losses at Doncaster Council, more reductions in the budget for local services and an increase in Council Tax for residents.
Despite the cuts, the Mayor said she is continuing to focus on protecting vital services and investing in Doncaster’s future.
Mayor Ros Jones said: “There has been no let-up by the Government. Their savage cuts to council budgets have left us with another significant budget gap. Over the next three years, we need to meet a further budget gap of £43million and this is on top of the £224million of ongoing savings we have already had to find in our annual revenue budget since the Government austerity measures began.
“In light of the economic challenges we continue to face, it doesn’t get any easier to prepare a budget which invests in our future, protects the most vulnerable and maintains the services that matter most to our residents. However, this is our key priority and I believe we have achieved this in my draft proposals.
“The success of our innovative and prudent financial planning in recent years means we are in a stronger position than many other local authorities to deliver a balanced and fair budget which continues to minimise the impact of these cuts on local people.
“Our goals remain unchanged in looking to provide modern public services which are both efficient and effective, supporting our most vulnerable residents and creating the right conditions to drive new jobs, economic growth and housing. This is the right approach and will deliver most benefit for Doncaster in these challenging of times.”
In her draft proposals the Mayor indicates where money can be saved to meet the budget gap. The focus is to continue to be innovative, making the best use of modern technology, reshaping services and generating more income.
One example is the Adults Health and Wellbeing Transformation Programme which is supporting more people to live in their own homes for longer. This is the right thing to do and also means there is less need for long term or traditional care which saves money.
The Herten Triangle development is another example of the council’s innovative approach which has seen the council, as the landowner, resurrect a failed scheme at Lakeside which will deliver jobs, growth and enhanced income for the council from increased business rates.
The draft plans again take account of the impact of the National Living Wage, pay and price inflation and the Government’s social care ‘levy’ on Council Tax which raises money that must be spent on adult social care.
The Government’s 2% social care levy is an increase in Council Tax in addition to the 1.99% also being proposed.
Mayor Ros Jones continued: “Unfortunately, the Government’s actions mean we have little choice but to put Council Tax up and face some potential post reductions. It is a major disappointment that the Government fails to get a grip of the issues facing NHS and social care funding, choosing instead to continue to pass this burden on to local Council Tax payers.”
Doncaster residents currently pay the ninth lowest Council Tax in the country, when compared to other metropolitan districts and unitary councils. Under the draft proposals, the total Council Tax bill for a Band A property would rise by just under £33 per year or 63p a week in 2018/19.
The proposals would potentially see 153 full time equivalent post reductions over the three years. The council will initially look to delete vacant posts, then seek volunteers, then redeployment with compulsory redundancy being the last resort.
Despite the difficult budget situation, the Mayor has made it clear that the council must also remain focused on key priorities for Doncaster, particularly creating more, well paid jobs, and ensuring residents are supported to take advantage of the new opportunities being created.
One of the ways the council plans to achieve this is by investing in a number of major capital programmes. A new Central Library, Museum and Art Gallery and Archives facility is one of a range of Urban Centre Masterplan projects set to rejuvenate Doncaster’s town centre, help attract more businesses into the borough and provide additional business rate income.
Investment in major transport schemes will also provide the right conditions for further economic growth. The second phase of Great Yorkshire Way, the DN7 project and the West Moor Link improvement scheme are all infrastructure projects which are investing in Doncaster’s future.
Concluding, Mayor Ros Jones said: “We have had to make some very difficult decisions but I firmly believe these draft budget proposals focus on the key priorities for Doncaster. I have always said the council must live within its means but do the very best it can for its local people, communities and businesses and this is reflected in these plans.”
“The pain of the Government cuts has not gone away nor will it. We must continue to change the way we work in order to protect local services, as we have at least three more testing years of challenges ahead. However, I believe my proposals will get us through to the end of a difficult time and still support Doncaster and its future.”
The Mayor’s draft revenue budget proposals for 2018/19 to 2020/21 can be viewed online at: www.doncaster.gov.uk/budget.
A period of consultation will now take place which will enable people to put forward alternative proposals prior to the budget being discussed at Full Council on 5 March 2018.
- Category: General