Despite continued financial pressures, South Tyneside Council’s leaders say they have presented a balanced budget for the 2022/23 financial year.
However this is against the backdrop of £6.6million in required savings in addition to the £183million the local authority has already saved since 2010.
Council chiefs say to help balance the books, the authority is proposing a 2.95% increase in council tax which includes a combination of the Government’s adult social care levy of 1%, ring-fenced for those services, and a 1.95% increase in core council tax.
Although separate precepts for fire and police services have not been confirmed yet as part of the final council tax bill for 2022/23, it is estimated that the council tax rise would equate to around 64p per week for Band A households, into which the majority of South Tyneside’s homes fall.
This year’s budget has been shaped by the council’s five community priorities to; support young people in need, support families and older or vulnerable people, create the conditions for economic recovery and investment, support town centres, villages, and hospitality and invest in the natural and built environment.
Councillor Joanne Bell, lead member for resources and innovation, said the budget would continue to protect frontline services despite uncertainty around the sustainability of future government funding for councils.
“Our financial pressures are challenging but manageable and as we emerge from the pandemic we are focused on recovery and renewal,” she said.
“Residents have told us that regeneration and jobs are still the highest priority for them and that is why we are continuing our investment in the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, Holborn Riverside and major transport schemes that will improve connectivity.
“We know that people’s local surroundings are important to them and that is why we have increased our footpaths and highways improvement budget by a quarter of a million to £5.25million in 2022/23.
“We have also invested in new litter bins and our street cleansing budgets have been maintained.
“There is increased demand for affordable homes and that is why we continue to invest in our own housing stock [and] we have also started to build council homes for the first time in over a decade.”
Cllr Bell said the Medium Term Financial Plan for 2022-2027 aims to “use limited resources in the best way” to ensure the council “focuses on the things that matter most.”
This includes investment in playgrounds on a rolling programme over the next five years, borough-wide accommodation schemes for more vulnerable adults, increasing provision for children with special educational needs and continuing to deliver “innovative renewable energy schemes” in each town.
The local authority has also been successful in attracting millions of pounds of external funding for a range of regeneration schemes, including Holborn Riverside, and is making progress on clearing sites for development with a focus on increasing footfall.
In 2022/23, South Tyneside Council will receive 60% of its income from council tax and retained business rates and 40% from Central Government.
External funding streams have also been secured to support the funding of the council’s capital investment programme, including regional funds applied locally to support the wider economic objectives of the region.
Cllr Bell confirmed that proposed savings in the 2022/23 council budget would not lead to any job losses, with the continuation of the council tax support scheme helping more than 18,000 residents with their bills.
She went on to say: “While we have savings to make, we cannot simply stand still and that is why we are targeting our investment in areas that will make the biggest difference and safeguard our high-quality community facilities for generations to come.
“As a multi-million-pound service led organisation, we are committed to the delivery of high-quality, value-for-money services.
“We are a very lean organisation in terms of structure and capacity, but we continue to empty millions of bins, maintain thousands of kilometres of roads and footpaths, support thousands of vulnerable adults and children, reduce thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions and engage with hundreds of businesses.
“Our plans are shaped by our continued engagement with the residents of South Tyneside so that resources are allocated to meet community priorities.
“We also continue to do all we can to leverage any funding opportunities available to us.”
South Tyneside Council’s cabinet will consider the Medium Term Financial Plan, which includes the proposed council tax rise, at its meeting on February 2 before the budget is debated by full council later the same month.
The final council tax precepts for the Tyne and Wear Fire and Civil Defence Authority and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner are expected to be confirmed by the time full council meets on February 24, 2022.