Stoke-on-Trent City Council have launched a public consultation on a budget for 2023/24 that could see £11.5mn in cuts to services.
Residents are to be given a chance to have their say on £6.9mn of the proposed savings. A further £4.6mn are not subject to public consultation because the council say they will not impact frontline services.
Changes are inevitable
If approved the budget will see significant savings in areas including supporting children on the edge of care and learning disability services.
The budget could also see streetlights dimmed or switched off at agreed times where permitted by highway regulations and changes to how services are delivered in libraries and local centres.
The council will use the savings made to invest £ 178.5mn in services for vulnerable children and adults.
Council leader Abi Brown said “Demand for social care services in our city has never been higher. We have a responsibility as an authority to support people who need our help the most. The funding will help us to continue to support around 1,000 children who are in the care of the authority, it will help us to deliver home care to vulnerable adults, it will help us to support people with multiple and complex needs and it will help us to further invest in supporting patients’ discharge from hospital”.
Tax rises on the way
The council are also consulting on a proposed increase in council tax of 4.99%. 2% of this will go towards supporting adult social care and 2.99% towards supporting other vulnerable people.
The proposed rise in council tax would see residents pay on average an extra £48.84 a year. Despite this the city still levies the tax at the eighth lowest rate in the country compared with 93 other unitary and metropolitan authorities.
Councillor Brown said the council, “take their responsibility to manage public money very seriously and make decisions on how it is spent to support residents, businesses, and communities across Stoke-on-Trent. If agreed, these proposals will see 62p out of every £1 spent on social care services.”
At a critical juncture
The cuts to services and rise in council tax come on the back of a winter that has been challenging for many people living in the city.
In December, the city council distributed £300,000 to three organisations supporting families struggling with food and fuel costs. The extra funding came from a £2.7mn grant made to the city under the government’s Household Support Fund and went to Beat the Cold, Groundwork and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Over the Winter the council, in partnership with local charities, distributed food vouchers to 16,000 children and £300,000 in food and fuel vouchers to families as part of its Stronger Together Through Winter Campaign.
The council set out proposals to support growth in the city as part of its budget, including cutting congestion and investing in the Goods Yard development next to Stoke Station.
Councillor Brown said the city was at a “critical juncture” and that the cost-of-living crisis had imposed pressures on its finances but the council would not let these “derail our exciting regeneration projects and deprive our city of the investment, jobs and opportunities that they will bring”.
Speaking about the consultation she said the council wanted to “know what people think” about the budget and to share any ideas they have for alternative savings.
The council were, she said, “working hard to make sure we do the right things for residents and taxpayers, and in previous years input from residents has helped us adjust proposals accordingly.”