Conservative-Independent administration asked to agree budget to deliver council tax freeze, rent decrease and investment

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Conservative-Independent administration is being asked to agree proposals to deliver a council tax freeze, a rent reduction for council house tenants and more investment in housing, education and communities, in budget proposals for 2016/17.

The proposals being put forward to coalition cabinet on 9 February will see:

  • Council tax frozen – no increases for any households in the city. It will mean that the average Band A council tax will remain at £788.97, equivalent to £15.17 a week.*
  • Council housing rents cut by one per cent across all 18,500 council properties, saving council tenants £674,000.
  • An extra £4.3m spent on housing repairs and maintenance in the next financial year.
  • An extra £6.1m spent in capital on housing in 2016/17, cutting the turnaround time for vacant properties to be re-let, and accelerating the council’s programme to renovate dated sheltered housing and apartment accommodation.
  • A £500,000 investment in a maths centre of excellence for the city, which will attract match-funding, to help drive up education standards.
  • Investment in learning disability services to improve support for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
  • A £500,000 investment in services to improve support for the safeguarding of children.
  • £500,000 to improve recycling rates and a further £100,000 to extend garden waste collections from seven months of the year to nine months.
  • £500,000 to maintain un-adopted green space to improve the appearance of the city, with a further £500,000 to extend a crackdown on fly-tippers to include tackling un-adopted open land. An additional £200,000 will be spent on environmental enforcement and £200,000 more on maintaining newly created public realm works which are improving the look and feel of the city centre and town centres.
  • Capital investment in heritage-led projects, including the historic former Spode pottery site and building improvement schemes in Stoke, Burslem and Longton.

The revised reduction in the grant received from government is £11m instead of a projected £13.3m. The position has been further improved with an additional £1m collected on council tax which means the base position has improved overall for the council.

The original proposals set out in December proposed £15.5m of reserves to be used for the budget. The improved financial position has allowed £2.5m to be added back into reserves. This additional money will be used to provide for further pressures with looked after children and older people support. Also £500,000 will be directed to public health to ease the pressure after a £1.3m reduction in funding from government.

This means a revised £13m of council reserves will be used to help make a total of £26.8m of savings. The measure will still leave the council with enough money in reserve to meet emergencies.

Consultation has been under way with residents across the city with feedback from organisations such as the North Staffordshire Pensioners Convention, Staffordshire police, schools and neighbourhood partnerships all inputting into the proposals.

The proposals have been developed in line with the coalition’s ‘stronger together’ five key priorities to: support residents to meet their potential; help businesses to thrive; protect vulnerable people; work with local people to make their communities great places to live; and, in a change of direction for the authority, to make the council more commercially focused, to bring in income and drive efficiencies.

Conservative Deputy Council Leader and cabinet member for finance, Cllr Abi Brown said: “In this budget, we’ve worked hard to look at where savings can be made and also where investment is needed.

“At the same time, it’s been about prudent use of our resources. We are committed to using our assets in the most effective and creative way when it’s most needed.

“We are focused on fundamentally changing the way services are delivered. We are embracing this through more partnership approaches, such as co-operative working, leading in the joining up of services with other authority areas, such as in parking enforcement, and in partnership working in social care and health.

“This budget, being delivered hand- in- hand with our ambitious capital programme totalling £473m, allows us the scope to develop commercial opportunities for the council. It allows us to look to income generation to help us deliver the services that residents rely on and which help our city to grow.”