Help us balance Plymouth’s budget
We want to hear your views and ideas as we make decisions to set a balanced budget for the 2019/20 financial year .
We are facing big challenges in doing this as our funding continues to reduce each year while demand for services is rising. You can give your views by emailing: BudgetViews@plymouth.gov.uk
Delivering the hundreds of services we provide for Plymouth residents is getting more difficult each year.
This is because the funding we receive to provide local services is reducing dramatically.
Our budget for delivering services such as emptying bins, cutting the grass, maintaining roads and pavements and looking after the elderly and children comes from Government grants, Council Tax and income such as fees and charges.
The problem is that the Government has cut Plymouth’s funding year after year. Our revenue support grant from the Government has reduced from £76.6 million in 2013/14 to only £9.5 million in 2019/20.
88% of Government grant funding for Council services has been cut between 2013/14 and 2019/20.
At the same time as the Government is cutting our funding, our costs are rising, particularly the cost of caring for older people who can no longer look after themselves.
The cost of looking after the city’s most vulnerable children is also rising.
This has a huge impact as around 60 per cent of our total revenue budget needs to be spent on care services for children and adults. This is a national problem and all councils with responsibility for providing social care are experiencing the same difficulties.
How we are meeting this challenge
In Plymouth we have successfully dealt with some of these challenges by taking early action.
In 2013 we identified a £65 million gap between what we needed to spend to maintain services and the income we had to pay for them.
Since then we have been transforming the way we work, achieving savings by radically rethinking how we provide some services, driving more efficiency in everything we do and by making many difficult decisions to reduce spending.
So far we have delivered up to £90 million of savings.
However, our funding continues to decline and are facing a funding gap from 2020/21 of £37 million.
More details about these challenges are set out in our Medium Term Financial Strategy
It is getting harder
Every year it gets more difficult to maintain services while dealing with declining funding.
This financial year we have experienced unprecedented demands and costs in children’s social care, which added £4.1 million extra costs. (Read our news story on extra pressures in social care).
As well as a big rise in the number of vulnerable children needing care, the cost of providing the care is particularly high due to the level of support needed to keep young people safe, such as specialist residential care placements with high levels of staffing.
At the same time we are dealing with very high demand for adult social care as more frail elderly residents and people with dementia need support.
We are also seeing an increase in homeless families needing temporary accommodation.
How do we continue to manage with less?
With our government funding continuing to decrease we need to continue to find savings in order to deliver these priorities and protect vital public services.
We are determined wherever possible to continue delivering those local services that we know Plymouth residents value.
But it is getting harder. After several years of big reductions in our income, there are far fewer savings to be found.
These are just a few of the things we are doing to manage with less:
Joining up with others to deliver services
It is often more efficient to join up with others to provide services. In Plymouth we have been pioneering in combining our adult social care services with community health services. We have also joined up the commissioning of care services with the NHS. We also take a more proactive approach in improving the health of Plymouth residents so fewer people need support.
We have also created a shared service with the NHS to provide our IT services, which now also provides our payroll and some other back off services.
Our school meals service is now provided by a co-operative jointly owned by schools.
We are continuing to explore opportunities to deliver services in new ways, such as creating shared businesses with our partners where it can improve services and drive efficiency and innovation.
Investing in Plymouth
We remain ambitious for Plymouth despite the funding cuts were are facing.
We want Plymouth to grow and the Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan sets out that we will build 26,700 new homes across the whole Local Plan area by 2034 to meet these needs.
More homes raise income through Council Tax, enabling us to provide the services and infrastructure that families in Plymouth need.
We also have ambitious plans to create jobs. We are investing – through what is known as our Capital Budget - in property and assets that:
- Provide a long-term revenue income to support local services
- Stimulate economic and employment growth and regeneration in the city
For example, we have bought business and retail parks, the freehold of the main postal sorting office, as well as sites such as ToysRUs, which is key to the regeneration of the West End of the city centre.
We pay for these investments through our capital programme which is funded through loans, money from developments and grants for specific projects such as road schemes.
We have also secured millions of pounds of capital funding from the Government to invest in major infrastructure projects such as the Forder Valley Link Road. These schemes provide the extra capacity needed to support the growth of the city while keeping the city moving.
Taking a commercial approach
We are taking a more commercial approach and making better use of assets and we plan to continue generating more income by providing services that people will choose to pay for.
For example, our public protection service, which includes the bereavement service, is looking to increase its range of products and services to customers, which will raise income to support essential local services. We are also hiring out some of our most impressive buildings for weddings and events.
The Council Tax we collect provides a proportion of the income we need to provide local services. We understand the strains on household finances in Plymouth and do not want to raise Council Tax more than necessary. Plymouth residents continue to pay one of the lowest average Council Tax rates in the region and we want to keep it that way.
Each one per cent increase in Council Tax can raised around £1 million for local services so it is only part of the solution to addressing the financial pressures facing the Council.
Give you views
Let us have your views by emailing: BudgetViews@plymouth.gov.uk