Certainly tough times ahead for the staff at Calderdale Council, as well as the residents of the area. The council announced today the proposed increase of Council Tax by 4.99% (Including a social care levy/precept). Over 40 staff to potentially lose their jobs, plus the closure of Elland Household Waste recycling site. It’s easy to criticise, but having already had to make huge cuts, it’s not a job many would envy.
Protecting the most vulnerable children and adults in Calderdale and continuing to deliver good quality statutory services are the budget priorities for the Cabinet in the next financial year.
The budget proposals were presented by the Leader of the Council at a Cabinet meeting on Monday 15 January 2024, marking the start of a period of public consultation.
The Council is legally required to set a balanced budget each year. Based on the Council’s current financial forecasts, the local authority is now facing budget deficits of £7.5 million in 2024/5, £6.2 million in 2025/6 and £4.8 million in 2026/27.
This has been estimated based on the likely impacts of the economic situation on the Council, including:
- higher contract costs as contract prices are linked to national inflation rates;
- ongoing impacts on levels of income through fees and charges affected by the cost-of-living crisis;
- providing adequately for pay inflation, and
- energy costs still being affected by higher rates.
Additional investment is also needed in children’s and adults’ social care in response to rising costs and demand.
As the Chancellor’s Spending Review only extends to the end of 2024/25 there is no certainty about the level of funding available for local government in future years.
The Council had already made savings of £120 million by 2023/24 compared to its 2010 budget.
Cllr Jane Scullion, Leader of Calderdale Council said:
“These are extremely challenging times and unfortunately, we are now faced with some very difficult choices. Calderdale has a proud record of robust financial management, and we will not put that reputation at risk.
“Our priority is to set a sustainable budget, for this and subsequent years. We must be able to continue to balance the books.
“Over recent years we have tried to do ‘more with less’ but this is not sustainable and inevitably we must now look at reducing services which we are not legally required to provide.
“Like all councils Calderdale must by law provide certain services such as social care and refuse collections, whereas many other services whilst important, are optional. To protect our most critical services we have no choice but to make some tough decisions.”
The budget proposals outline a number of services where the Council will seek to find potential savings in future years.
Wherever possible the Council will try to minimise the impact on communities and will aim to:
- make the budget balance and keep decision-making local;
- meet the Council’s legal, statutory obligations;
- reduce inequality as much as possible;
- be ambitious for Calderdale;
- enhance quality of life;
- keep residents safe;
- protect services where possible;
- keep our focus on tackling climate change;
- bring investment into the borough and
- be honest about what can and cannot be done.
To protect and maintain vital public services the proposals include an increase in Council Tax of 4.99%. This includes a Council Tax increase of 2.99% in line with the limit set by Government and an additional 2% Social Care Precept to help fund and protect social care services to vulnerable adults and children.
These increases are expected of the Council by the Government when it is calculating how much funding the local authority will receive within the financial settlement.
The Cabinet’s proposed budgets savings include:
- savings from festive lighting;
- charging for care services within Heatherstones, which provides temporary residential care to help people adjust after being in hospital (after an initial free 6 week period);
- a reduction in youth services across the borough;
- a reduction in the level of preventative work of the Youth Justice service;
- a reduction in spend on contracts with external suppliers;
- the introduction of a permit scheme to use household waste centres and
- the closure of Elland household waste recycling centre.
The Cabinet’s budget proposals may affect up to 44 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs across the Council over the next three years.
There will be an opportunity for residents and businesses to ask questions about the Cabinet’s proposals during an online live Q&A session at 7pm on Thursday 1 February 2024. https://youtube.com/live/FZHbOjMsXDo?feature=share
Alternatively, for those unable to access the web form, feedback can also be returned by downloading the form available at https://new.calderdale.gov.uk/council/budgets-and-spending/cabinets-budget-proposals
This can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to arrive by Wednesday 7 February 2024 to:
BUDGET CONSULTATION, TOWN HALL, HALIFAX, HX1 1UJ
The Cabinet budget proposals are available to view online at https://new.calderdale.gov.uk/council/budgets-and-spending/cabinets-budget-proposals
The proposals will be finalised by the Cabinet on Monday 12 February 2024 and the budget will be agreed at the Annual Budget Council meeting on Monday 26 February 2024.