Facing massive government cuts in funding and additional cost pressures, North Tyneside Council has set out a clear plan and budget to ensure that the borough has a bright future ahead. The comprehensive package of proposals will protect vital services and ensure continued investment to create jobs and economic prosperity.
At a meeting of the council’s cabinet last night (Wednesday 28), a clear set of priorities for the delivery of services and draft budget proposals to save almost £16million were agreed. This comes on top of the £76 million the council has already had to cut from its budget in the past five years as a result of previous Government reductions in funding.
The plan and budget, which has been shaped by listening to people from across the borough, will ensure:
- that every child in North Tyneside has the best possible start in life and is ready to start school
- that people of all ages have the skills and ability to achieve their full potential
- that everyone is able to live healthily and well and is cared for if they are vulnerable
- continued excellence in schools – North Tyneside first and primary schools have recently been rated the best in England by Ofsted, while middle and secondary schools continue to be recognised as exceptional places for young people to grow and succeed and are among the best in the country, with one sixth form being in the top ten in the region.
- a good choice of quality housing to suit all ages and needs, including affordable homes
- continued focus on keeping the place clean, attractive and safe, including award winning beaches, parks and open spaces
- an excellent range of leisure and cultural facilities, including all of the current libraries
- improved transport routes, including tackling traffic congestion and improving road safety
- continued improvements in the protection against flooding £2.8million has already been invested and successfully protected hundreds of homes
- improved visitor attractions
- continued inward investment and job creation by world class companies and a wealth of small and medium sized businesses – North Tyneside was recently named amongst the top five fastest growing tech clusters in the UK
- continued multi-million pound investments to regenerate the borough: along the coast at Whitley Bay; in town centres; at the Spanish City Dome and at the Swans site in Wallsend
- continued progress with the impressive North Tyneside Living scheme to provide top quality places to live for the borough’s growing elderly population
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “Because of recent budget decisions by the government and legislative changes, the level of cuts that we have to find over the next three years are alarmingly high at almost £56million.
“In the autumn the Council outlined its financial position. This highlighted a continuation of massive government funding cuts coupled with significant spending pressures on our already stretched budgets. Since then we have been consulting with our residents, businesses, key partners, voluntary and community groups and staff on how to reduce the impact of these cuts so that we can meet the difficult financial challenge ahead and continue to deliver the services that people need.
“Worryingly these government cuts have come at a time when there is also a growing demand for some of our most costly services, such as adult and children's social care. This means that some very tough decisions have had to be taken this year.
“We have not made sweeping cuts to services across the board. Our approach is to focus on what people tell us is most important to them and to look at the key issues facing the borough. We use this to shape a clear set of priorities in our Council Plan and our budget proposals. In this way we plan for the long term future of the borough rather than a series of year-on-year cuts.”
As the Chancellor outlined in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the council has also included in its plans a four per cent council tax increase which will raise in the region of £3 million each year. Half of this will be used to support vital adult social care which currently costs the Authority over £49 million per annum – a third of its net budget – and the rest will be used to support the ongoing delivery of other front line services as well as libraries, leisure centres and weekly free bin collections which would otherwise have to be cut.
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn added: “Unfortunately because of the severe funding cuts by the Government, we have no other option but to raise council tax for the first time in five years. This is in line with other local authorities – we are all in the same position. But I want to be really clear, this is not a decision that we have taken lightly. I know from listening to our residents that they understand that we have been left in a position where we have had to do this to ensure we can continue to provide vital services over the coming year.
“We are now having to ask residents to pay a little more in their council tax to help protect services. The proposed increase is four per cent which equates to around 68p per week for Band A households. We are determined to continue to provide excellent value for money, and we will continue to help those who may have difficulty paying the full amount.”
Norma Redfearn continued: “This is a plan and a budget that will ensure that North Tyneside has a bright future ahead and will continue to be a great place to live, work and visit for generations to come.”
This year’s budget proposals include:
- modernising how services are delivered and making efficiencies in back office functions
- reducing the number of council-owned buildings that are no longer required and offering a one- stop shop approach to provide more services under one roof
- managing the demand for care and health services with: community based housing support; a more preventative and targeted approach, particularly for children and family support; streamlining access to care and disability services for adults and children – making it quicker and easier for people to get the help they need
- supporting residents to do more for themselves through: more accessible services online, community based support
- a new approach for childcare – using the full range of top quality services delivered by a network of providers including schools, private sector and community/voluntary sector.