Barnsley communities benefit as prudent council signals spending increase

Spending: Difficult decisions in austerity means Barnsley Council now has cash to investSpending: Difficult decisions in austerity means Barnsley Council now has cash to invest
Spending: Difficult decisions in austerity means Barnsley Council now has cash to invest
Careful planning through the austerity years have allowed Barnsley Council to embark on a round of increased public spending in the months ahead with the promise of more additional projects next year.

Government support for local authority finances beyond the 2020/21 year have yet to be announced, so the council cannot plan with certainty beyond that point but Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told colleagues the ability to loosen the belt came as a result of taking “difficult decisions” when austerity was at its height, with many other councils now having to use spare cash to “plug gaps” in their services.

He told a meeting of the council’s ruling Cabinet, which approved plans to spend almost £1m on improving services in special educational needs, launching a major ‘blitz’ on litter and graffiti, pushing forwards with a big tree planting project and other schemes, “Austerity is still ongoing and we don’t know where we will be in 2021/22. We have a settlement for 2020/21 which is helpful and a better settlement than we have had for the last ten years.

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“The reason we are able to do this is because the council has taken difficult decisions over the last ten years to control budgets.

“There are still councils which cannot do what we are doing because they are still plugging gaps. We are one of few councils able to put something back in the next 12 to 18 months.

“It is good to be able to put something back, particularly on the visible stuff.”

Coun Sharon Howard said the focus of the current round of spending, which will be followed by more additional work yet to be announced next year, was helpful because it would complement work being done across the borough’s local council ward areas.

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Coun Tim Cheetham added that many councils had, as a result of austerity, were “Simply administrators, taking the money and delivering some statutory services.”

For the council to put itself in a position where it can extend spending on services was “no small thing”, he added.

The cabinet also approved plans for a network of charging points in car parks across the borough to help meet demand from increasing numbers of drivers using electric vehicles.

Coun Chris Lamb said that, along with the tree planting work, helped underline the commitment of the council to meeting the need to improve the environment.