Council sets out budget plans to keep vulnerable people safe

17 January 2018

Protecting vulnerable people despite significant funding pressures is at the centre of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s financial proposals which include cost cutting measures of £10.9 million that will ensure the Council continues to deliver efficiency savings.

Early budget proposals for 2018-19 are included in a report for the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which meets on Wednesday, 24 January.

A proposed council tax increase would allow the Council to invest £10.2 million in Adult Social Care and £6.6 million in Children’s Social Care over three years. This includes a much needed boost of £5.4 million in Adult Social Care and £6.1 million in Children’s Social Care funding in 2018/19.

The proposed council tax increase would be a 2% precept for adult social care and 2.99% for general Council services, resulting in a 4.99% increase in total.

This equates to an extra £1.32 a week for residents in a Band D property.

Councillor Samantha Dixon, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Increasing council tax is not a decision we take lightly as we know many families are struggling, but we have a responsibility to protect our vulnerable residents and maintain frontline services despite massive cuts to our funding by central government.

“Our reduced funding means we have to take difficult decisions and we have had an open and honest dialogue with residents about the tough choices we face.  These budget proposals have been informed and influenced by an extensive consultation with the public and we got the message loud and clear. Residents want us to make more efficiency savings and to protect vulnerable adults and children, and that is exactly what we are proposing to do.

“We are committed to making sure we support children to get the best start in life and to keep vulnerable adults and children safe and protected.

“The most significant costs we face are increasing numbers of children entering care and our ageing population, which puts greater pressure on social care. 

“Sadly, cases of trafficking, child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and chronic neglect are increasing nationally.  

“This increases demand for our services, creating huge financial pressures on our budget, which, if we didn’t take action, would threaten the quality of care we provide.

“More people are living longer, which is good, but many people are living longer with very complex needs, which increases demand on social care and, again, puts significant financial pressure on our budget – something we need to address to maintain our standards of care.” The Council faces a funding gap of £33.3 million over the next three years, which includes an £11.8 million shortfall in 2018-19.

Budget proposals outline how the Council will bridge the gap and set out how it will achieve the priorities in the Council Plan 2016-20, Helping the Borough Thrive.

This includes setting aside £1 million to reduce the gap between more and less deprived areas of the borough and investing £208.7 million in the next three years on capital projects like the regeneration of Winsford, Northwich and Chester.

Schemes to support residents struggling to pay council tax bills would also be protected.

Budget proposals also cover initiatives to make the Council more self-sufficient in the light of cuts to central government funding, including plans to reduce the Revenue Support Grant – the biggest source of money for local government which is not ring-fenced – to nil by 2020.

The budget proposals are part of the Councils four-year financial plan that accompanies the Council Plan and was agreed by Council in 2016.

Councillor David Armstrong, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “In total, the Council will be responsible for spending more than £704 million of public funds delivering services across the borough in 2018-19 and we are determined to achieve value for money for every penny spent.
“We have a positive track record of sound financial management and, since 2009, have already generated savings of £178 million, enabling the reinvestment of £68 million into priority services for our most vulnerable residents.” Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be asked to make recommendations to Cabinet, which meets on 7 February. Final proposals will be considered at the Council’s annual budget setting meeting on 1 March.

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