I’ve spoken many times about the pressures on local authorities as they continue to face huge reductions in funding from central government at the same time as increased demands on services.
It’s an extremely difficult challenge, one which requires council tax increases to partly plug the funding gap and innovative thinking to maximise the use of emerging technology and to work in more efficient ways.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council will be raising council tax in 2018-19 but it will only be the third increase in eight years because we were able to freeze council tax rates for five years.
However, that option is no longer available or viable for us and, while decisions to raise council tax are always taken with reluctance, it would be irresponsible not to do so in light of the economic climate, the massive gap in funding for adult social care and the need to continue to deliver quality services for our residents, communities and businesses.
At East Riding of Yorkshire Council, we have also taken an invest-to-save approach to our budget decisions and we have been able to do this through strong financial management, forward planning and an ethos of investing in the East Riding’s infrastructure and facilities.
This means being brave and working hard and innovatively, to spend money on long-term projects which will bring long-term benefits to our communities.
Here are some examples:
l A five-year £23.9million investment in improving the A road network
l A five-year £15.2million investment to replace and repair our street lighting columns
l Investing more than £60million to reduce the flood risk to more than 20,000 properties across the East Riding
l £20million for schools to deliver state-of-the-art accommodation
l Investment in special educational needs for two to 19-year-olds
l £15.4million on maintaining and improving council housing stock
l Creating more multi-service centres, which helps to reduce costs
There are many more examples of how the council is investing multi-millions of pounds into improving the East Riding and the vast majority of the funding for these projects is coming from external sources.
This is thanks to the fantastic work of council staff who time and again use their expertise to secure grants from organisations in what is a very competitive environment.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council is the envy of many authorities for its healthy programme of investment and has an excellent reputation for delivering exceptional schemes which not only contribute to improving people’s lives but help to grow the economy.
We work hard to make every penny of such external funding, and every penny of council tax, count.
We could take the decision to cut back on expenditure but if we stop investing in roads, schools, leisure facilities and other important services then everyone suffers and we want the East Riding to be the best it possibly can be as a place to live, work and visit – for the benefit of all.