Consolidating the Council’s financial position and managing the uncertainty of future funding are the priorities for the budget for 2020/21, which was agreed at Budget Council last night (Monday 24 February 2020).
The Government has not yet announced the level of funding for local authorities beyond 2020. This means that next year’s budget only covers the spending and savings decisions required in 2020/21 for which funding levels are known.
The Council continues to face extreme budget pressures as the current level of demand for children’s and adults’ social care is unprecedented, particularly from those with complex needs.
Supporting the recovery after Storms Ciara and Dennis and preventative work to reduce the risk of future flooding across the Calder Valley are also priorities within the budget, as is the need to respond to the climate emergency. The Council has announced the development of a £1 million investment programme to help create a ‘carbon neutral fund’ to progress environmental projects run by the Council and the local community.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Tim Swift said:
“It is too early to know the exact cost of the recent flooding as the continued bad weather has made assessment of some of our key infrastructure, particularly some of our bridges, too difficult at this stage; however once this has been completed we will assess what resources are required, later in the year.
“What is clear is how vital it is for us to continue to protect funding to those services which we rely on to respond during flooding and its aftermath, since these are so critical to the recovery of our communities.”
The Council is required to make a £745,000 saving to ensure the budget is balanced by March 2021. This will be achieved by
- reducing the Council contributions to the Council’s pension fund so that frontline services can be protected;
- accepting one-off savings relating to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Fund and
- replacing the proposed Council funding for market town improvements with the Government funding announced for Elland, Halifax, Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden and Brighouse.
The opportunity to access up to £75 million from the Government for market towns in Calderdale will help create an environment of thriving independent retail, support local businesses, address traffic problems and maximise and share the wider benefits of culture, arts and heritage.
To help the Council maintain essential local services, Council Tax will rise by 1.99%. The Social Care Precept will be used to raise a further 2% so the Council can continue to provide high quality care for frail and vulnerable people, and to help meet increasing demand as the population ages.
An additional £1 million has been allocated to children’s social care and an extra £2.5 million will be invested annually in adults’ social care to help these services remain sustainable in the future.
Once future funding is clear the Cabinet has highlighted four areas on which they will focus:
Addressing local poverty – the Council will work with partners to tackle homelessness and support the poorest households in our communities.
Taking action on the climate emergency – the Council has declared a climate emergency and its Climate Change Working Party is developing the Council’s response. Work on the Council’s Re:fit programme, to make its own buildings more energy efficient, and the £22 million LED street lighting replacement scheme will continue and further actions will be identified by the Working Party.
Developing sustainable towns – the Council will use the Future High Streets, Towns and High Streets Heritage Action Zone funding from the Government to help communities and businesses thrive.
Increasing affordable housing – the Council will take an active role in building new homes in Calderdale through its development company, with a £4 million budget to stimulate house building and continue to work with its partners.
The Council will continue to hold Calderdale Conversations with people about their vision for the borough and the role of the Council throughout 2020. This approach will inform the Council’s future budget decisions on priorities such as reducing the causes of deprivation and inequalities, developing sustainable towns and acting on climate change.
Full details of the approved budget will soon be available at www.calderdale.gov.uk