South Tyneside Council budget plans revealed for 2023/24: School expansion, 'community engagement officers' and road improvements among spending plans

Senior councillors have revealed spending plans for the coming year with funds targeted at making South Tyneside a place where people live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.

As part of the medium term financial plan (MTFP), the local authority needs to save around £3.7million in 2023/24, bringing the total amount of cuts to £190 million since 2010.

Borough bosses have confirmed next year’s savings would not impact frontline services or lead to forced redundancies, and have been achieved through streamlining services, use of technology and deleting vacant posts.

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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 opening access to a range of support schemes in disadvantaged areas.

Budget spending plans have been revealed for South Tyneside.

Council cash has also been redirected to address residents’ concerns with improved action on weeds and a team of ‘community engagement officers’ who will work with residents on a range of issues.

Around £117,000 has been allocated for three officers who would look at issues ranging from waste and recycling to crime prevention, as well as fulfilling an enforcement role.

According to budget documents, investment has also been guided by “strategic risks” including investing £250,000 into a “hosted corporate disaster recovery” system to help the council recover from a potential cyber attack.

Other strategic risks are linked to “insufficient funding and increased demand in adult social care”, as well as “financial risks” around inflation and energy prices.

This includes a £20.7million inflationary pressure on the local authority, from net inflation on prices and income and the cost of living increase, with the council having to spend “considerably more just to continue providing the same services”, according to budget documents.

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Elsewhere, the council’s capital programme sets out investment in line with council priorities around residents being financially secure, healthy and well, connected to jobs, part of strong communities and “targeting support to make things fairer”.

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.

Key capital funding headlines in the 2023/24 budget report include:

:: £2.8million to provide an additional classroom, science laboratories and food technology areas at Mortimer School.

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:: £19million towards the ‘Decent Homes’ programme for council properties.

:: £13.5million for the Holborn Renewable Energy Network, £5.1million for the Viking Energy Network and £2.5million for Hebburn’s energy scheme.

:: £1.25million towards a council ‘fleet replacement programme’.

:: £13.387million to further support the International Advanced Manufacturing Park employment site.

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:: £2million towards road resurfacing and £2million towards ‘flags to flexible footways’.

:: £410,000 linked to the planned South Tyneside College town centre relocation and new campus area, public realm improvements and the restoration of the Grade-II listed 16 Barrington Street.

:: £1.87million towards a purpose-built children’s assessment centre and two residential children’s homes in South Tyneside.

:: £500,000 to “rationalise and provide a safer and more user-friendly layout” at Middlefields, focusing on traffic, parking and “futureproofing” the site.

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Cllr Joanne Bell, cabinet member for governance, finance and corporate services, said the budget had been prepared using “evidence, insights, and feedback from thousands of people right across the borough” and aimed to put South Tyneside on a strong footing for future years.

Cllr Bell continued: “(The report’s) content aligns with the borough’s 20-year vision and its five ambitions.

“As a council, setting a balanced budget is one of the most difficult but important responsibilities we have.

“We’ve protected frontline services and targeted investment on things that deliver for the people of South Tyneside.

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“Our capital programme will see continued investment in regeneration and town centre schemes as well as core infrastructure to keep the borough connected.

“We have increased dependency upon external funding so will be doing everything we can to bring money to South Tyneside, following on from our successes securing millions from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Arts Council priority funding and support for our renewable energy schemes.”

The proposed budget for 2023/24 is based on a proposed council tax rise of 4.95%, with 2% of this linked to the Government’s adult social care levy, which is ringfenced for those services.

The adult social care levy contributes towards the funding gap within social care services, with adult and children’s social care continuing to be the council’s biggest area of spend, accounting for more than 70% of its discretionary budget.

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Cllr Bell added: “We know that the current cost of living crisis is creating intense pressures, and we will continue to support residents wherever we can.

“We have enhanced our welfare support provision and currently support 18,400 households through our council tax support scheme.

“In addition, we have proposed an additional £100 council tax rebate for households on low income.”

South Tyneside Council’s core Central Government funding has reduced by 52% since 2010, with council bosses stressing that council tax rises are needed due to increasing costs and demand for services.

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The alternative to a council tax rise, Cllr Bell added, could see the council “stop providing services” which local communities depend on.

Budget proposals will be discussed by South Tyneside Council’s cabinet on February 1, 2023, before going to full borough council for decision on February 23, 2023.