Council tax rise and millions in spending cuts move forward as senior councillors approve South Tyneside's budget for 2023/24
South Tyneside Council’s latest budget has taken a step forward after winning support from senior borough councillors.
As part of the medium term financial plan (MTFP), the local authority has outlined proposals to save £3.7million in 2023/24, bringing the total amount of cuts to £190million since 2010.
Proposed investment for 2023/24 aims to support residents through the cost of living crisis, with continued support for food banks and new ‘anti-poverty strategy officers’, as well as increasing access to support schemes in disadvantaged areas.
Council cash has also been redirected to address residents’ concerns with improved action on weeds and a team of ‘community engagement officers’ looking at issues around waste, recycling, crime prevention and more.
The budget has been based on a proposed council tax rise of 4.95% for 2023/24, with 2% of this rise ringfenced under the Government’s adult social care precept for social care services.
Individual council house dwelling rents for 2023/24 are also expected to rise in line with Government rent policy guidance and council MTFP papers state this equates to “an average increase across all dwellings of £5.86”.
Elsewhere, the council’s capital programme sets out investment which senior councillors on Labour’s ruling cabinet heard is in line with council priorities with millions of pounds directed to strategic areas.
This includes continued cash for roads, footpaths, accessible playground equipment, housing stock, environmental and renewable energy schemes, adult and children’s social care accommodation and the regeneration of South Shields, Hebburn and Jarrow.
Spending plans were given the stamp of approval at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s ruling cabinet on Wednesday, February 1, bringing the budget a step closer to becoming a reality.
Councillor Joanne Bell, cabinet member for governance, finance and corporate services, said budget consultation had taken place with the voluntary sector, business sector, councillors and other stakeholders.
Councillors were told that high inflation in recent months had “hit the council hard” and that the 2023/24 budget reflected the need for extra funding to “catch up and meet the prevailing levels of high inflation and much higher energy costs”.
The spending plans and priority investments fall against a backdrop of increased demand for adult and children’s social care and pressures on household budgets due to the cost of living crisis.
However Cllr Bell said the budget had continued to align resources around the council’s five new core ambitions, including an ambition to “target support to make things fairer”.
Several councillors praised the MTFP at the cabinet meeting at South Shields Town Hall, and said the proposals would benefit borough residents.
Councillor Adam Ellison, cabinet member for children, young people and families, welcomed investment into new council children’s homes, existing schools and a new ‘Youth Zone’ for the borough.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, deputy council leader with responsibility for culture and leisure, noted the council’s investment into leisure services, as well as partnership work with the NHS.
Councillor Jim Foreman, cabinet member for housing and community safety, praised investment into supported housing to develop a “new model” to help those with complex needs across the borough.
Councillor Anne Hetherington, cabinet member for adults, health and independence, noted adult social care was the council’s “biggest single expense” and praised budget proposals to both safeguard and improve services.
This included an acknowledgement of the “hard work” of council officers and staff in adult social care and public health during the budget process.
Cllr Hetherington added: “I know that they have worked really hard to bring about efficiencies and better use of resources to get better value for money for South Tyneside, without detrimental impact on the vital services that we provide”.
Councillor Ruth Berkley, cabinet member for voluntary sector, partnerships and equalities, welcomed investment into additional staffing to help “enhance the response” to the cost of living crisis and poverty issues.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, cabinet member for transport and neighbourhoods, singled out several “great initiatives” in the budget plans.
This included a “much-needed” fencing programme for allotments, plans to upgrade the council’s ageing vehicle fleet, park improvements, investment into road resurfacing and pathways and continued cash for the borough’s Community Area Forums.
Councillor Margaret Meling, cabinet member for economic growth, skills and climate change, also welcomed continued investment into local authority renewable energy schemes at Holborn, Jarrow and Hebburn.
She said there had been a ‘hiccups’ with the projects, the schemes are going well and will help give South Tyneside a brighter, greener future as well as putting the borough on the map.
Cllr Meling said: “These are innovative projects […] they’re groundbreaking both literally and metaphorically and they have raised the profile of South Tyneside at a national level.
“Despite the hiccups that have been, the schemes are progressing well and will help us reduce our carbon footprint and will be beneficial for our residents”.
Following cabinet approval this week, South Tyneside Council’s latest budget will be put to all councillors in vote at a meeting of full borough council on Thursday, February 23.
The meeting is due to be held from 6pm at South Shields Town Hall and will be open to the public.
:: More information on council tax in South Tyneside is available at https://www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/1450/Council-Tax
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