Notts: Council puts protecting the vulnerable, elderly and children first in its new budget

Coun Alan Rhodes
Coun Alan Rhodes

Notts County Council has made protecting the vulnerable it’s main priority as it unveils its first detailed budget since announcing it had to make £154 million of savings over the next three years, due to Government cuts.

But approximately 750 jobs are at risk as a result of the budget proposals, although 269 of the affected posts are currently vacant as a result of strict new vacancy rules introduced by the council last summer.

The budget details how the council will reduce its spending by £83 million over the next three years, £57 million of which will be reinvested to meet on-going, spiralling demand for services to care for the elderly and protect vulnerable children.

The council is now proposing to allocate £1 million per year from its Public Health budget to fund housing related support services for people at risk of homelessness.

The original proposal was to reduce the council’s annual £12.5 million Supporting People funding by £4.2 million, with savings being found from housing related services. The change will now mean a reduction of £3.2 million.

In addition, the council will make £750,000 available over the next three years and will work with providers to ensure changes are phased in gradually.

The budget also allows for the retention of four welfare benefit workers, at a cost of £90,000 per year, to assist vulnerable people needing benefits advice, including people facing homelessness, and the retention of Strawberry Fayre café – a facility run by local people with learning difficulties, which had originally been earmarked for closure.

A specialist team to support adults with Asperger’s will also be saved, after fears it would be merged with other social care teams, and the council says it will continue to fund transport assistance to over 1,000 older and disabled people every week to access vital services such as work projects and day services.

The closure of the Kingsbridge Way Short Breaks service and Newlands NHS Short Breaks Unit has also been put back 12 months.

The council will continue to use its reserves to reduce the impact of the cuts on frontline services and to fund capital projects, such as new school buildings or widening of the A453 which reduces the need for borrowing and keeps running costs down.

Proposals are also being put forward to increase Council Tax by 1.99 per cent next year, which would raise more than £5 million a year and help protect some of the services under threat.

Council leader, Coun Alan Rhodes, said: “From day one of our budget consultation we’ve been open and honest about the appalling financial constraints being imposed on the Ccuncil and I think that people are generally understanding about the position we’ve been put in by the biggest cuts to funding for local services that any Government has ever imposed.”

“The scale of the cuts in Government grants we are facing means that we have no choice but to make significant reductions in our services, which we are extremely sorry about.”

“This is not something we want to do. In arriving at our final budget proposals we’ve had to take many unpleasant, painful and sickening decisions over services which have been cherished by local people for many years.”

The final, detailed budget, which will be debated at meeting of the Full Council on Thursday, 27th February.