Budget proposals detailing how Wiltshire will protect vital frontline services while continuing to invest in key areas have been published.
Wiltshire Council currently spends almost £1bn each year on more than 350 services. Spending plans meet the council’s key priorities of protecting those who are most vulnerable, boosting the local economy and empowering communities to do more for themselves to help them to be even stronger and more resilient.
The capital budget continues investment across the county focused on the local economy, building more homes, health and wellbeing centres and community hubs. In 2017/18 the plan is to invest £131.5 million.
£38.7 million in the economy and transport, £3.7 million in broadband, £6.4 million in campuses and community hubs and £40.9 million in housing, all of which help stimulate the local economy. The ongoing commitment to invest in highways will see £24 million spent on road and bridges repair and maintenance in 2017/18.
As well as meeting the council’s Business Plan priorities, the capital budget also protects the commitment to Military Civilian Integration and creating and protecting jobs across the county.
The budget setting report acknowledges the challenges of delivering services against continued reduction in Government funding, increased demand in some services; particularly adult social care and children’s safeguarding, and the effect of inflation.
This year the Government Settlement Funding Allocation has been reduced by 17.6% from £86.71m to £72.31m.
When Full Council decides on the proposals on 21 February, members will be asked to approve a further one per cent Social Care Levy to help meet rising adult social care costs. This is a variance to Full Council’s decision in October 2016, when it set its four year financial plan. It was agreed that Council Tax in 2017/18 would increase by 1.99%, as well as a 2% increase in the Social Care Levy. Since then the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have recognised the pressure on social care and have announced changes to allow a further 1% increase in the Social Care Levy in 2017/18 and 2018/19.
The 1% Social Care Levy will raise c£2.3 million.
Despite these funding changes there is a projected shortfall in next year’s budget. Savings of £13.331 million have been found in order to balance the books. These are shown in the Budget papers and include savings from management and staff (£3.5m), procurement (£0.250m) and further efficiency changes. The proposed management and staff reductions include reducing vacancies, agency and consultancy costs and the review of all service areas.
The budget papers are available online at http://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=1418&Year=0
Over the last five years Wiltshire residents have had one of the lowest national increases in council tax. Wiltshire continues to have one of the lowest council taxes.
Council Tax increase – impact on residents:
Council Tax Band D:
· 1% increase = 34p a week
· 1.99% increase = 67p per week
· 4.99% increase = £1.69 per week
· 3% Adult Social Care Levy = £1.02 per week
Dick Tonge, cabinet member for finance, said: “We are staying true to our three main priorities and although we are having to make savings we are still committing investment in roads, housing, broadband and community hubs, just some of the areas which ensure Wiltshire remains an attractive and thriving place for people to live and work.
“The rises in council tax and social care levy are a necessary part of ensuring we can continue to help those who are most vulnerable and continue to deliver services, particularly for adult social care, where the costs continue to rise as they have done for all councils across the country that provide such care.”
Baroness Jane Scott, council leader, said: “Every year we face the challenge of balancing the budget to ensure that we allocate sufficient funding to deliver our priorities; particularly continuing to protect those who are most vulnerable. This year has been one of the toughest since we became a unitary council, as service demands continue to increase and the opportunities to make savings get harder.
“We have looked at every budget spend and have made savings to ensure we can continue to protect those who most need our services and support.”