Residents face a council tax hike of nearly four per cent in Staffordshire to help pay for the increasing cost of social care.
A record £320 million is to be spent on protecting the increasing numbers of adults and children needing care in the county in 2020, despite falling funding from Government.
With 65 per cent of Staffordshire County Council’s budget now spent on care, the council had already agreed a five-year plan to reduce its costs by £62m by 2024 to help manage the growing pressures.
Philip Atkins, Leader of the Council, said this council’s proactive plan had allowed it to live within its means, deliver a balanced budget and still protect everyone eligible to receive care next year.
However, Philip issued a stark warning that the current situation was unsustainable without urgent Government action to tackle the national funding issues.
Philip said: “As a county council, we have acted swiftly to manage the increasing pressures on our budget, while at the same time also managed to firmly focus on growing the economy, creating better jobs and helping more people lead healthier, independent and rewarding lives.
“We have been honest with partners and communities about the challenges we face together and continue to work with them to find new and more affordable ways of supporting residents through greater use of digital technology and locally-based support.
“Despite the immense challenges we still have much to be proud of in Staffordshire: low unemployment, a strong economy and a children’s service that was once again rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted.
“Our call now is for the new Government to back the ambitions of well-run councils like Staffordshire by securing a long-term national solution to how we fund care, support children with special educational needs and disabilities and protect our local roads from further decline.”
In 2020/21 the county council’s budget will see:
An extra £8.1m invested in helping to keep more children out of care;
An investment of £650,000 in climate change and sustainability projects;
More than £120m spent on capital projects, such as schools and business sites;
Delivery of an additional savings across services to meet the £62m five-year plan to 2024;
Joined-up working with the NHS to offer an affordable approach to health and care.
To help achieve this, the county council tax will rise by 3.95 percent, which includes the Government’s 2 percent levy to help towards the care bill. This is less than £1 per week on the average bill for a Band D Property and will still be one of the lowest in the country.
Philip said: “With national Government funding continuing to fall, the council tax we all pay in Staffordshire has to work even harder to not only protect the most vulnerable, but also give everyone the best shot at living as healthy, rewarding and independent a life as possible.
“As we enter 2020, I am not only hugely proud to be Leader of this council, but also hugely optimistic about how much we can still achieve with partners and our communities for the benefit of Staffordshire families.”
The draft budget for 2020/21 and Medium Term Financial Strategy will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Cabinet on January 8, before being presented to Full Council in February for a final decision.
Following the General Election all spending projections will be subjected to review once national government funding for local councils is confirmed in the Local Government Finance Settlement in the New Year.