Government must decide on how to fund local services, Rotherham Council leader warns

A budget for next year which promises improvements to help residents has been approved by Rotherham Council, but will see householders pay three per cent more for the services they receive in the year ahead.

Thursday, 28th February 2019, 12:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th February 2019, 12:32 pm
Savings: Rotherham Council has funds budget savings

Rotherham Council has approved the spending plan, the latest in austerity budgets which began with central Government cost-cutting in 2010 and which are expected to go on for at least another two years, meaning the council will have had to accommodate the loss of £200m by that point.

That has meant a catalogue of savings and changes to the way the authority operates, but Council Leader Chris Read told a meeting of Rotherham Council – which approved the budget – there would be positive developments for residents.

Around £16m more is being ploughed into children’s services, to cope with the increased number of children needing local authority intervention to secure their care.

Numbers of children in care peaked at around 660 recently, up from around 400 when austerity cuts started, putting more pressure on the council.

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Changes have been introduced which are designed to both better identify those in need of assistance and to help keep children away from needing to be taken into care, something which helps their future prospects and reduces the financial burden on the council.

A new council website also planned for 2019, to help residents get better access to council services, while streamlining the authority itself operates, to save money.

More cash is also going into road safety, with £450m earmarked for the next three years, to address road safety and speed limit issues.

That work will be supported by a fresh focus on enforcement from South Yorkshire Police, the meeting was told.

Rotherham Council is also to install CCTV in Clifton Park to address concerns about anti social behaviour, with Coun Read suggesting other areas may also benefit from camera-cover in future, too.

He also warned that the policy of constant cuts in the money Government puts into financing the work of the local authority was not sustainable.

Council surveys suggested 63 per cent of residents were happy to pay the increased cost to protect services this year.

But Coun Read added: “Within the next year, the Government must decide how councils are to be funded in the long term.”

A plan to remove deprivation from the formula used to calculate how cash was allocated to councils would have a damaging impact on Rotherham, he said, while sending more money to more affluent communities elsewhere in the country.

However, Lib Dem Coun Adam Carter was among those to vote against the budget, stating that it left vulnerable residents at risk.

The current situation, he said, was “ a direct consequence of funding decisions made by successive Labour councils over the past 40 years here in Rotherham.”

Rotherham Council has approved the spending plan, the latest in austerity budgets which began with central Government cost-cutting in 2010 and which are expected to go on for at least another two years, meaning the council will have had to accommodate the loss of £200m by that point.

That has meant a catalogue of savings and changes to the way the authority operates, but Council Leader Chris Read told a meeting of Rotherham Council – which approved the budget – there would be positive developments for residents.

Around £16m more is being ploughed into children’s services, to cope with the increased number of children needing local authority intervention to secure their care.

Numbers of children in care peaked at around 660 recently, up from around 400 when austerity cuts started, putting more pressure on the council.

Changes have been introduced which are designed to both better identify those in need of assistance and to help keep children away from needing to be taken into care, something which helps their future prospects and reduces the financial burden on the council.

A new council website also planned for 2019, to help residents get better access to council services, while streamlining the authority itself operates, to save money.

More cash is also going into road safety, with £450m earmarked for the next three years, to address road safety and speed limit issues.

That work will be supported by a fresh focus on enforcement from South Yorkshire Police, the meeting was told.

Rotherham Council is also to install CCTV in Clifton Park to address concerns about anti social behaviour, with Coun Read suggesting other areas may also benefit from camera-cover in future, too.

He also warned that the policy of constant cuts in the money Government puts into financing the work of the local authority was not sustainable.

Council surveys suggested 63 per cent of residents were happy to pay the increased cost to protect services this year.

But Coun Read added: “Within the next year, the Government must decide how councils are to be funded in the long term.”

A plan to remove deprivation from the formula used to calculate how cash was allocated to councils would have a damaging impact on Rotherham, he said, while sending more money to more affluent communities elsewhere in the country.

However, Lib Dem Coun Adam Carter was among those to vote against the budget, stating that it left vulnerable residents at risk.

The current situation, he said, was “ a direct consequence of funding decisions made by successive Labour councils over the past 40 years here in Rotherham.”