Like many Northern Councils Calderdale Council has faced unprecedented cuts. This is against the backdrop of the Government being forced to borrow £122Bn extra to try and cover the cost of Brexit. Rather than ending the cuts to local government, we are as a nation now borrowing more to pay for Brexit.
On top of this, the number of elderly and vulnerable people the Council has a responsibility to look after is increasing. For every £1 the Council spends, 32.69p goes on supporting this group of people. In addition, while we welcome the 2% pay rise Public Sector Staff will be getting, this additional cost has not been adequately financed by the Government, so the burden falls onto the local Council to fund this pay rise. It is against this challenging economic backdrop that we have prepared our budget proposals.
The Consumer Price Index rate of inflation is currently at 3%. We therefore propose putting up Council tax in line with this to ensure the Council maintains its spending power. In addition we are proposing to make use of the 3% Social Care Precept in 2018/19. This money will be spent directly on providing care to the most vulnerable. Despite these measures we still need to cut £1.8M from the budget in 2018/19 rising to £6M in 2019/20.
As Liberal Democrats we are keen to explore innovative ways of running and delivering local services. It is for this reason we are proposing new income sources. A local lottery scheme to support local good causes, a crowdfunding scheme to raise money towards community projects, investing more in commercial property developments and providing more commercial services.
We also want to reform how the Council is run. By reverting to the Committee system of governance we could cut the number of Councillors in receipt of additional responsibility allowances. By empowering all Councillors to make decisions in committees we would revitalise our local democracy and save money.
Our priorities in this budget have been finding innovative ways to raise revenue, and using this revenue to both protect the most vulnerable while providing more of the front line services that people value such as gritting, well maintained highways and parks.
We will increase Council spending to:
- Protect the most vulnerable with extra funding to help the homeless;
- Provide and additional funding as pledged for our winter gritting service;
- Provide additional funding for highway maintenance;
- Create a budget for building new park play equipment;
- Provide additional funding to support projects for young people;
- Introduce a CCTV camera in West Vale to monitor traffic and tackle anti-social behaviour;
- Undertake two additional traffic calming schemes;
- Continue the emergency living support grant;
- Appoint a Fire Safety Officer to implement lessons learnt from the Grenfell Tower fire.
To achieve this we will:
- Introduce two days unpaid annual leave for Council Staff;
- Outsource and/or Collaborate on the delivery of Back Office Services;
- Reduce Opening Hours in Hub and Spoke Libraries by 30%;
- Move to a Committee System of local governance and cut Councillor pay;
- Introduce a local lottery scheme;
- Start to raise funds for community projects via crowdfunding;
- Start investing some of the Council’s funds into commercial property;
- Increase charges for bereavement services;
- Offer more commercial services to raise revenue.
We have provided information sheets with our budget on any growth areas or savings that were not contained within the cabinet's proposals. If you want information on any of the funding proposals that are also in the cabinet's proposals then you can view those here.
These are our draft proposals and we have published them for public consultation. We would love to hear what you think so please feel free to leave your comments or to get in touch with us about them.