4% council tax rise planned for Stoke-on-Trent to support vulnerable adults and children

Stoke-on-Trent City Council's been outlining how it plans to make savings.

A total of £10.5m of additional savings need to be found.

The proposals include reducing jobs, and with around 35 set to be lost.

The city council intends to increase council tax by 4%, with 3% of that to go to fund additional adult social care pressures being faced in the city.

It follows concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission about the access to care facing some elderly people in the city, with an action plan now being drawn up by the authority and health partners.

The authority is also facing a reduction in government grants.

1% of the rise will go towards supporting the number of young children in care, with plans also put forward to make £3 million in savings by 2020 by improving foster carer recruitment and better partnership working for adoption services.

The 4% rise would mean the majority of residents will pay an additional 63p a week increase, equal to £32.51 for the year.

£885,000 would be taken out of drug and alcohol services by 2020 under the proposals, which will involve reducing the provision of long-term methadone prescribing.

The authority admits if that leads to relapse it would have an impact on community health and safety, but hope to limit that by supporting the work of other services and the police.

Changes are set to be made to homelessness services to focus on providing accommodation costs, which would save £1.3m by 2020.

Budget plans also include a review of Northwood Stadium, which is currently running at an annual loss of £120,000. 

Bosses say they are committed to keeping it open, which they could do by streamlining services, but would also look at the possibility of handing the running over to an external partner.

Proposals also include increasing the cost of parking at some sites, including Fenton Manor and Dimensions, where plans to increase gym membership are also being considered.

Council leader Dave Conway said: “Setting a budget in what is being considered one of the toughest years ever for local authorities is extremely challenging. While we know our Stronger Together strategy is delivering – we are seeing more jobs, more homes and more benefits for the local economy – there is still a long way to go. By law we have to balance our budget – we have no choice. Costs have gone up as demand for our services has increased. At the same time nearly half the money we received from government has been removed meaning we have to take tough decisions.

“We are investing in the right way to ensure we can deliver essential services to the most vulnerable in our community but we also have to make tough decisions to find the balance in other ways. 

“We continue to focus on redesigning services wherever we can, getting more value for money and looking at ways we can use the council’s expertise to generate income and become more commercially minded.

“We have set out a £429.2m capital investment programme to 2022/23. This includes £2m investment in community initiatives to provide additional community-based facilities and activities, for example, to help our residents who suffer from dementia. 

"It also includes £162.1m on refurbishing and building 360 new council houses which in turn will improve the quality of people’s lives and generate income that can be invested into essential services. For every 400 homes built, we will receive £1m via the government’s New Homes Bonus and council tax.”

In a joint statement, Labour MPs for Stoke-on-Trent Ruth Smeeth and Gareth Snell said: “Today, any veneer of confidence in the Independent—Tory administration to competently run council services has been shattered. Unfortunately for the residents of Stoke-on-Trent, they are now going to pay for the mistakes of a tired Council leadership which is out of its depth.

"The Council has today published its budget proposals, with a foreword from the leader and deputy- leader of the council that states their ‘Strategy is working”. A statement so detached from the reality of the situation, begs the question are they really in touch with the crisis that they are facing or the impact their proposals will have on local residents.

"A strategy that will result in a 4% budget busting council tax rise and hit the pockets of residents in Stoke-on-Trent at a time when many have their own wages frozen or cut; that increases parking charges and adds to the list of services the Council is costing out local residents from using such as pest control.

"Over the next couple of days we will work with stakeholders to properly assess some of the worst elements of this budget and do all we can to oppose plans that will have such a detrimental effect on the lives of the residents of Stoke-on-Trent."

A public consultation has now been launched on the plans, and will run until 8 January. 

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