It’s that time of year when councils around the country are setting their budgets for the next financial year and agreeing council tax levels.
There are always difficult decisions to make and every year those decisions become harder and harder as councils face the pressures of ever-decreasing funding from central government, inflation and rising demand on services.
A particularly challenging pressure comes from the cost of providing adult social care and the government has recognised the huge funding gap councils face in this area by allowing local authorities to increase council tax by up to 5.99% without triggering a local referendum.
This includes a 3% adult social care precept and goes some way towards helping meet the adult social care funding shortfall… but not all the way.
Basically, it leaves councils still needing to make huge cuts in other areas of their annual budgets.
Since 2010, East Riding of Yorkshire Council has seen its annual budget cut by more than £158million and is likely to need to find further savings of more than £40million by 2021.
Just to put that into context, that’s not a one-off saving of £158million, it means the council has £158million less money every year to spend on services.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council is in a better position than most because we started forward planning for austerity before 2010 and made a commitment to avoiding knee-jerk reactions to funding cuts.
Instead, a track record of strong financial management, investing to save and maximising technology to improve efficiency is enabling the council to deal with budget pressures while continuing to deliver quality services.
Crucially, those services are also provided with value for money in mind.
As a proud Yorkshireman, I know how much people value their hard-earned brass and so it is only right that the council makes sure it spends every penny of public money wisely.
So when it comes to the council tax, East Riding of Yorkshire Council staff and members work extremely hard to make every penny count for the benefit of residents and businesses.
You will see this in all walks of life, from bin collections and recycling to roads maintenance and the wide range of fantastic facilities we invest in like our leisure centres.
What you might not be as aware of is the huge amount of money which is spent on protecting the more vulnerable members of society.
Over the next four years we are facing an £8million gap within adult social care even if council tax is raised by 5.99%.
The annual cost of providing adult social care services in the East Riding is estimated to increase to £89million by 2021-22 and, despite the adult social care precept on council tax, there is still not enough money in the system to fund annual adult social care costs on a permanent basis.
We are determined to protect services for vulnerable people as much as possible but to continue to do this we have to make savings elsewhere and increase council tax.
Like I said at the start of this article, we face difficult decisions but I’m sure you’d agree that it is of the utmost importance that we continue to prioritise our most vulnerable residents, the help who need our help the most.