Robust budget agreed to protect Plymouth from post-COVID fallout

Plymouth City Council last night agreed a budget that aims to keep people safe and support sound financial management whilst leading the City through recovery.

At the full Council meeting, Members agreed proposals for the 2021/22 budget. At the heart of the new financial plan is how the Council will respond to the increased demand on Council services caused by the pandemic and deliver an ambitious programme of investment in the city, all whilst contending with huge reductions in core Government funding.

Whilst the post-COVID fallout is still unknown, members heard how more people than ever are accessing support from the Council. This includes over 2,760 residents who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, around 3,586 vulnerable adults needing social care support and significant increases in the number of children who are in care.

The budget aims to help address the demands on local services.  We are investing over £5m in the next financial year into Social Care demonstrating that this is a Caring Budget. We have also included an additional £0.6m to fund costs with Homelessness and over £3m into Children’s Services to mitigate the increased costs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is in addition to delivering the 300 high-quality day-to-day services that residents heavily rely on, including street cleansing, maintaining roads, running libraries, supporting schools and providing social care.

Council Leader, Tudor Evans, said: “We have weathered 10 years of austerity by being innovative and ambitious in securing investment to deliver the city’s growth, which has led to a large number of big projects coming to fruition.

 “We’ve found better ways of doing things, reshaped how we deliver many of our services, found new ways of generating income, joined up with our partners wherever possible and maximised the use of our assets.

“However, COVID-19 has presented new challenges that no-one could have predicted. Throughout the pandemic we have come out fighting. And where the Government have failed, we have stepped up – supporting thousands of local people and businesses.

“But that support needs to continue. We can’t stop helping vulnerable children or older adults. We have to continue to support those thousands of local people and businesses that need our help.

“Whilst at the same time we are bold in our ambitions for Plymouth. We are driven to get things moving again. To make Plymouth a better place to live, a city that is clean, green and safe. One that has great green spaces, events and a great culture.

“We must not sit on our hands and ignore the longer term impact of the pandemic. But, due to the lack of additional funding from the Government, we unfortunately have no choice but to ask residents to pay a little bit more in their monthly Council Tax.”

Council Tax funds over 62 per cent of the council’s budget. The Government therefore encourages councils to consider a 4.99 per cent total increase to Council Tax.

This is an equivalent rise of £1.51 a week for a Band D property. The increase is made from a 3 per cent increase to the ‘adult social care precept’ and 1.99 per cent increase to ‘core Council Tax’. In total this will provide £5.7m towards the cost of council services.

Councillor Mark Lowry, Cabinet Member for Finance, added: “In order to protect Plymouth, a city faced with long-term pressures caused by the pandemic, the Government has left us with little choice but to increase Council Tax.

“It is ironic that whilst the Government continues to give local councils more responsibilities, they are not putting their hands in their pockets to provide adequate funding. 

“The Government continues to pass the burden of its reductions and these pressures onto local taxpayers. It is effectively telling councils to raise council tax by 5 per cent.

“Despite this we have worked hard to continue to protect vital services and prioritise critical areas such as protecting vulnerable children and adults in the most need.

“We are successfully investing in Plymouth to create jobs and raise income. Our investment strategy is not only helping safeguard jobs, it is providing vital income for services.

“We are also increasing the pace of our work to tackle climate change, which is a high priority.

“So, while the Government has put us in an extremely tough financial position, we’re continuing to work hard to protect services for Plymouth residents through a proactive and ambitious approach to managing our resources. We are supporting local people to be safe, whilst ensuring that our financial management remains sound.”

Residents on low incomes are reminded that they might be eligible for Council Tax support. Find out more information here.

More information about the programme of work planned for 2021/22.