Council budgets have never been under as much pressure as they are today.
Council spending has reduced by over £172 million since 2011-12 because of Government cuts, increased demand and rising costs. Council tax has also been increased, without which the cuts would have been even higher – around £180 million.
The Government has said that it will make more cuts to council funding and stop paying councils general grants for local services by 2020. In future the money will have to be found locally through Council tax, business rates and charges.
Bradford Council has already taken decisions that will see further cuts and savings of £27.4 million being made next year. On top of that we will now need to find another £53 million in cuts, savings and additional income in the next two years, rising to £125-£130 million by 2020.
Unless the Government provides the money to pay the National Living Wage to care workers the Council’s bill for social care could add another £13 million to costs by 2017-18 rising to £35 million by 2020.
The money can only be found by cutting spending or increasing income by charging for services or increasing Council tax.
The Council has already made £112 million of savings through improving efficiency and productivity and reducing administrative and management costs and this has helped to protect services. We will continue to work to drive down costs but it is not possible to make further efficiency savings on the scale needed to balance the Council’s books.
Cuts to spending on frontline services are now inevitable because the Council doesn’t have enough money to pay for all the services people currently use.
While budgets are being cut the demand for services is growing as the numbers of people living in the District increases. The numbers of younger and older people are increasing at a faster rate than those of working age and higher numbers of people with disabilities are also predicted.
A lot more of us living here and living longer means there are more of us who need services like social care.
The District also faces some big challenges in improving education, increasing employment and the numbers of good jobs, tackling poverty, creating safe and clean communities and securing better health.
About half of the Council’s net budget is currently spent on helping schools, families and young people and giving care and support to children, older and disabled people and people with mental health issues. Given the ongoing cuts it is inevitable that spending on these service areas will be affected.
With the demand for and cost of services – some of them very expensive – going up, while the money to pay for them goes down, business as usual cannot be an option. Councillors will face very difficult decisions about what services to reduce, what to charge or charge more for and what to stop altogether.
It will take the energy, efforts and resources of us all – the Council and public services, local people, communities and business – to succeed in meeting our financial, social and economic challenges.
None of us has all the answers and there are choices to be made, but we all need to think about what we can contribute to creating the kind of place that we want to live in, because we can achieve far more working together than we ever can alone.
The Council wants you to have your say on the Executive’s proposals for spending and local taxes and tell us what matters most to you, give us your ideas about what could change, how we could increase income and what part you and others could play in meeting the challenges that we face.