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Budget Speech Feb 2018

I am here today to recommend that Council approve my budget for 2018/19.

This is my second budget as City Mayor for Salford. It is a City I am immensely proud and humbled to serve. I believe this budget represents as far as is possible a responsible and fair set of proposals given the financial situation we are facing.

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Let me first outline the technical elements of the Budget I am presenting to Counciltoday.

I am recommending an overall revenue budget of £202.779m for 2018/19. I am also recommending a capital programme of £115.913m for 2018/19, using the resources set out in part 3 of my report.

In accordance with the formal resolutions set inAppendix 6, I am proposing:

  • A council tax requirement of £98.876m, in accordance with the legislation;
  • abasic amount of council tax of £1,516.80 and an amount for each valuation band in accordance with the legislation
  • an amount of council tax for eachvaluation band in accordance with sections 30 and 36 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992
  • I am also recommending that Council approves the Housing Revenue Account budget for 2018/19 of £15.43m.
  • Finally from a technical point of view, I am recommending that Council approve the treasury management prudential indicators for 2018/19 to 2020/21 as set out in Part 4 of my report.

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I now want to turn to the main part of my speech today…

This year's budget has been a horrendous balancing act –and it is my grim duty to present the council with further proposed cuts of £11.2m this financial year.

This year's cuts take this City Council's collective loss of funding to £198m since 2010, …with over 50% of our budget by the end of this financial year having gone. The reduction in available spending power has been enormous, …and in the face of these tremendous pressures, I would like first to thank the staff and officers of the City Council for their dedication, passion and unrelenting commitment to our city through these hard times.

But times are not just hard for Salford! Across England, councils expect to face a funding gap of £5bn by 2020. From there, things are only anticipated to worsen as core spending is phased out in favour of Business Rates Retention by the end of the decade.

Across our public services, austerity is ravaging social provision, segregating British society into the haves and have-nots. Our NHS is in financial meltdown, police-cuts have lead to significant increases in violent crime, and local council care provision is stretched to breaking point.

In response to this crisis, government has given local authorities no choice but to raise council-tax –a regressive tax which hits the poorest in our society the hardest. 95% of councils in England are planning to raise council tax this year, with a further two thirds looking to use their reserves to balance their books.

In total, council tax increases are expected to raise £584m for local services in 2018/19 …this is compared to £1.4bn of core funding cut from councils in this year alone. In recognition that council tax alone will not pay for austerity, government have also allowed local councils to raise 'precepts' dedicated to particular services.

147 out of England's 152 social care authorities are likely to introducean adult social care precept in 2018/19, …raising an extra £548m to pay towards the national crisis in social care.

The LGA has already warned that this number will be dwarfed by the cost to councils of implementing the government's Living Wage (and not the real Living Wage), which will rise to £1bn by 2020. Unsurprisingly, in data acquired by the Local Government Information Unit, 80% of councils fear for their financial sustainability over the coming years. Indeed, the examples of the Tory authority of Northamptonshire issuing its Section 114 notice last month is a grim indicator of things ahead.

And with Conservative-run Surrey council running a £100m plus deficit, it seems the trickle of local authoritiesbeing pushed to failure through austerity and local government cuts has already begun and this iseven after the government made an additional £24m available to Surrey back in 2016. The majority of the £300m two-year fund would go to county authorities, mainly in the south of England. Labour's figures found Surrey would getthe largest single amount, at £24m, followed by Hampshire (£19m), Hertfordshire (£16m), Essex (£14m), West Sussex (£12m), Kent (£11m), Buckinghamshire (£9m) and Oxfordshire (£9m).

I do not believe it is any coincidence that both of these struggling local authorities are Tory-run. Both were at the forefront of the neoliberal race to the bottom, selling off assets and commissioning out services to contractors. As such, both have been stretching beyond their means in recent years as the cheap money of the late 1990s and early 2000sboom years has dried up.

As the collapse of Carillion has shown us, Thatcher and Blair's privatization agenda has hollowed out local government, and created a catastrophe within our public services. Fragmented and under-resourced, British public services from health to policing, to adult social care, are now all struggling to cope, whilst many private sector firms continue to rake in billions of public money, often paying their executives exorbitant salaries, whilst taking on minimal risk.

Be it the collapse of 'Key Forensic Services', the private company responsible for our Crime Scene Investigation units, or the spiralling costs of rail and gas in private hands... the British public is footing the bill for a National Privatization Disaster.

The scale of the funding reductions we have already experienced –and the scale of those we know are still to come, means we have had to fundamentally review all of the services the City Council delivers.

At the heart of all the decisions we have made is an abiding commitment to do everything we can to protect those services that support our most vulnerable residents. But we cannot hide from the fact that the scale of cuts we must make means that even these services cannot go unchanged.

As such, this year's budget contains proposals for an increase in council tax to 2.99% -with the addition of a 2.00% precept for adult social care. These funds are vital to protect the continuity of our services, ensuring those that needthe help of the council most are not left out in the cold. Amongst other examples, this year our pooled Health and Social Care budget will realise savings of £1.9m through a 5 year plan investing in community based services. No services will be removedthrough this saving, with increased investment from the Adult Social Care precept.

Public Health, Strategy and Change are to make savings of £0.0668, and the Place Service Group will reduce its revenue budget by £1.837m, with a further £0.762m of efficiency savings to be made from contributions to arts organisations, reduction in partnership costs and use of online services.

In addition to these savings, and in response to a huge increase in demand for statutory services in the Children's Services department, Children's Services will not incur cuts this year.

Furthermore, I am proposing to invest £4.5m of additional resource into the department to maintain our level of service. These priorities reflect the Labour Party's commitments, and my own commitment, to providing the best possible value for money for Salford residents in the face of the disastrous cuts facing our local authority. We will continue to make prudent use of the new monies we are bringing into the city.

But we must be honest with ourselves and with our residents.

We have still had to make some difficult decisions in the proposing the budget measures before Council today. 75% of councils nationally are reporting a crisis in Children's Services.

Nationally, council's Children's Services are under huge pressure due to the impact of welfare changes, stagnating wages, and insecure employment. We are seeing increases in cases of poverty and an increase in the complexity of the issues children and their families are facing.

At the same time Government has introduced new burdens on councils to meet the needs of children, but it has failed to provide anything like adequate funding to meet these new responsibilities. For example, our children and families with no recourse to public funds now rely on the council for their entire living expenses, yet we receive no funding to provide this support. The Children and Families Act extends our duty to provide Education Health and Care Plans for certain young people up to the age of 25,yet we receive no funding (other than a small amount of transitional funding) to provide this support.

The impact of benefit changes is putting more families at risk of homelessness, yet for those families assessed as 'intentionally homeless', we receiveno funding to provide support.

I am proud of our commitment to our care leavers in the city, and these responsibilities are about to be increased from the age of 21 to the age of 25, yet there is no planned new funding to provide this support. As a council we are required to provide transport for children with special educational needs to travel to school and other educational establishments.

The increasing number of children with Special Educational Needs and with disabilities and our commitment to ongoing support is resulting in a huge pressure to the high needs dedicated schools grant element of our budget, and to school transport costs.

Coupled with these unfunded pressures nationally, is the need to ensure we support children and young people in our city.

The biggest demographic change has been in the increase of our younger residents –and we are working to both understand these changes, and to plan for the changing needs this age group brings. After a year when we saw the numbers of Looked AChildren in the city decrease, we are now seeing those numbers increase once again.

This brings significant budget pressures in terms of ensuring the right placement for these children.

Ultimately, Salford is the 22nd most deprived local authority in the country with a 26% rate of child poverty. As a city, we have serious and entrenched social deprivation which feeds an above-average demand for resource from the local authority, and our public services.

These are all reasons why I have written to Government ministers asking for a fair funding settlement for Salford. This is what our residents deserve!

And they are the reasonsI have chosen to pause the consultation on the future of our nursery provisionfor one month, to campaign with UNISON, parents and staff for more money for our basic services.

But despite the hardship, Salford as a city is growing -and the proceeds of that growth have gone some way towards mitigating the worst effects of this year's cuts.

For example, £1.6m of additional business rate income and the £1m income we have received from the development at New Bailey are both being invested in services, cushioning the savings we have been required to make this financial year.

Ambitious investment in regeneration is something this council has done consistently over many of years –and it is something that is absolutely necessary to ensure we have the resources and opportunities for the future.

I make no apology for our continued investment in growth as it's clear that apart from electing a Labour government, regeneration and growth offers us one of the few hopes against the madness of Tory austerity.

The Quays, the Western Gateway and the redevelopment of Salford City Centre have all been a part of the council's bold investment strategy, to create opportunities, jobs and wealth for the people of our city. Careful targeting of the Council's resources can also help to stimulate other investment in the city –promoting and creating the opportunities our residents need and deserve.

MediaCityUK, Port Salford, New Bailey, Middlewood, Greengate and RHS Bridgewater are just some of the current developments we have helped to create, huge initiatives that will provide livelihoods, leisure and income for many thousands of Salfordians.

In the next 7 years, £4 billion of private sector investment coming into Salford is expected to deliver 18,000 new houses and 1.6 million square metres of employment space, with an additional 15,000 jobs. It will also generate significant amounts of muchneeded income: New Homes Bonus, £80m in council tax and £120m in business rates over the next decade.

This is money that we can use to provide some protection for services from the worst impacts of government funding cuts. We are already benefiting from this approach.

The budget I have proposed today includes a number of one-off measures to cushion the impact on crucial and over-stretched services. But even in these difficult times we are still, as a council, investing in those things that we know will support our vulnerable residents. In September 2017, we re-launched Salford Assist (previously known as the Salford Discretionary Support Scheme) –and invested an additional £300,000 in the scheme -ensuring more vulnerable residents in urgent need following an emergency can access the vital support they need. This has helped to: support 1654 residents with immediate emergency assistance (a 78% increase on 2016/17);

  • provided just under 500 residents who were previously homeless or fleeing domestic abuse with furniture packages;
  • enabled 30 homeless people to obtain a birth certificate;
  • launched a new food shopping voucher in partnership with Morrisons, reducing the number of residents referred to food banks.

Our £75,000 investment in the Salford Food Share Network is already helping to make a big different, with the opening of the new Eccles Food Bank Distribution Centre in November, and we are talking to the Trussell Trust about a new Swinton Food Bank in Spring 2018.

OurCouncil Tax Reduction Scheme has been retained at its current level for the third consecutive year–helping 25,732 people on low incomes pay their council tax bills, many of them pensioners and families. We boosted the pay of 300 home care workers by 10.7 per cent to £8.30per hour, well above the government's national living wage.

As many of you will have been aware, earlier this year we agreed to invest an additional £590,000 over four years to open seven new libraries and upgrade computer facilities in the city's other sixteen libraries -at a time when many councils are closing them.

We have provided an extra £70,000 funding for the council's welfare rights and debt advice service, which has helped to support 3,436 people with specialist free help and advice; helping to secure nearly £5 million in extra disposable income for Salford residents. All this is part and parcel of my city-wide commitment to our Anti-Poverty agenda, launched in February last year.

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However, the budget before Council today is not the end of the difficult decisions –as we know Salford, like local councils up and down the country, will continue to face a tough financial future under this Government.

Local Government continues to take more than its fair share ofthis Government's austerity drive.

Next year, we are currently looking at needing to find an additional £15m of cuts –over and above the reductions we are proposing today. This can only harm the people who live in Salford.

I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure we invest in those services that matter most to our residents. As we develop proposals over the next 15 months, I am committed to talking to residents across the city about the way we invest in crucial services.

But I am under no illusion, and neither should this Council or our residents be. We will continue to face tough decisions. I have no pleasure in making today's proposals. I do though the sincere belief that they are the best decisions we can make in these awful times.

With these considerations in mind, I recommend this budget to council today.