We're closing the £19m budget gap

Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich

Sunday, 6th November 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:56 pm
John Holdich

If you’d told me ten years ago that the money we get from government to provide services for our residents would be cut in half I’d have laughed at you.

Surely rising birth rates, people living longer and the inevitable greater pressure these factors place on our services would mean that our funding would go up and not down.

In an ideal world yes, but the reality is that in the past six years we’ve seen our government funding cut by £54million, which equates to nearly 50 per cent of our grant.

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Last Friday we published our first phase budget proposals which detail how we will close a £19million gap in our budget in 2017/18. Once again we’re ensuring that services for our most vulnerable residents are protected.

The proposals include ways we can save money or generate additional income to balance our budget, as well as investment to bolster services already provided, fund unavoidable pressures or to support the growth of the city.

This includes additional money to support children in care until the age of 25 in line with government guidelines and capital investment to work towards a comprehensive redevelopment of North Westgate in the city centre.

Following your feedback there’s also extra money proposed to reintroduce annual city-wide shrub cuts. Funding to increase grass-cutting was agreed earlier in the year.

In previous years we’ve gone to great lengths to not ask residents for extra money through their council tax, however this year we have no choice in order to protect services at a time when government funding is reducing.

We’re proposing a four per cent increase, which includes an Adult Social Care Precept of two per cent. For a Band D property, it equates to an extra 90p a week. Government expects all local authorities to levy the precept, introduced to give councils more money to spend on Adult Social Care, and in 2016/17, 95 per cent of councils did so.

Although the proposals we’ve published balance our budget for 2017/18, this is only with the use of £9million which we put into reserves last year to support budget planning in future years. The predicted budget gap in 2018/19 is £17.8million and therefore further urgent work is needed in the new year to reduce the reliance on reserves and help close the budget gaps in following years.

We still have tough challenges ahead, but with a clear vision for the future and careful financial management we believe we will see the city continue to develop into the strong and vibrant community we all want.

If you’d like to read the phase one budget proposals and tell us what you think as part of the consultation, visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget.

Hard copies are also available on Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and in each of the city’s libraries.

There was some great news this week for one of our schools which has had a difficult few months. Ofsted inspectors have reported significant improvement at Gladstone Primary School since its previous inspection.

We took immediate action when the school was graded inadequate in May; the governing body was disbanded and an interim executive board installed to run the school.

On the recent visit inspectors found that the school’s new leadership had taken ‘effective action to remedy the inadequacies in safeguarding arrangements’ and that inadequacies have been eliminated.

This turnaround in such a quick time is credit to the headteacher, his staff, pupils and my school improvement officers. Their insistence on the highest standards of behaviour is inspiring and encouraging pupils.

There’s still work to be done and we will continue to work closely with the school, in the same way we will every school in the city that requires improvement.