Despite continued financial pressures, South Tyneside Council leaders say they have presented a balanced budget for the 2022/23 financial year.
However, this comes against the backdrop of £6.6m in savings required on top of the £183m the local authority has already saved since 2010.
Council leaders say that to help balance the books, the authority is proposing a 2.95 per cent council tax increase which includes a combination of the government’s 1 per cent adult social care tax, earmarked for these services, and a 1.95% increase in the basic council tax.
Although separate precepts for the fire and police services have yet to be confirmed as part of the final council tax bill for 2022/23, it is believed that the increase in council tax Housing would equate to around 64p a week for households in Band A, into which the majority of homes in South Tyneside fall.
This year’s budget was shaped by the council’s five community priorities: supporting youth in need, supporting families and the elderly or vulnerable, creating the conditions for economic recovery and investment, supporting cities, towns and hospitality and investing in the natural and built environment.
Councilor Joanne Bell, member responsible for resources and innovation, said the budget would continue to protect frontline services despite uncertainty surrounding the sustainability of future government funding for the councils.
“Our financial pressures are challenging but manageable and as we emerge from the pandemic, we are focused on recovery and renewal,” she said.
“Residents have told us that regeneration and jobs are always the top priority for them and that is why we are continuing to invest in the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, Holborn Riverside and major transportation projects that will improve connectivity.
“We know that people’s local environment is important to them and that is why we have increased our footpath and highway improvement budget from a quarter of a million to £5.25million in 2022/23 .
“We have also invested in new bins and our street cleaning budgets have been maintained.
“There is an increased demand for affordable housing and that is why we continue to invest in our own housing stock. [and] we also started building social housing for the first time in over a decade.
Cllr Bell said the medium-term financial plan for 2022-2027 aims to “make the best use of limited resources” to ensure the board “focuses on the things that matter most”.
This includes investing in playgrounds under a rolling program over the next five years, borough-wide shelter programs for the most vulnerable adults, increasing the provision for children with special educational needs and the continued establishment of “innovative renewable energy programs” in each city.
The local authority has also been successful in attracting millions of pounds in external funding for a range of regeneration schemes, including Holborn Riverside, and is making progress in clearing sites for development with a focus on increasing the attendance.
In 2022/23, South Tyneside Council will receive 60% of its revenue from council tax and retained corporate rates and 40% from central government.
External funding streams have also been secured to support funding for the council’s capital investment program, including locally applied regional funds to support the region’s broader economic objectives.
Cllr Bell has confirmed that the savings proposed in the 2022/23 council budget will result in no job losses, with the continuation of the council’s tax support program helping more than 18,000 residents pay their bills.
She went on to say, “While we have savings to make, we cannot just stand still and that is why we are targeting our investments in areas that will make the biggest difference and preserve our high quality community facilities for generations to come.
“As a multi-million pound service run organisation, we are committed to providing high quality, value for money services.
“We are a very light organization in terms of structure and capacity, but we continue to empty millions of bins, maintain thousands of miles of roads and trails, support thousands of vulnerable adults and children, reduce thousands of tons of carbon emissions and engage with hundreds of companies.
“Our plans are shaped by our ongoing engagement with the residents of South Tyneside to ensure resources are allocated to meet community priorities.
“We also continue to do everything we can to take advantage of any funding opportunities that come our way.”
South Tyneside Council’s cabinet will consider the medium-term financial plan, which includes the council tax increase proposal, at its February 2 meeting before the budget is debated by the full council later on same month.
The council’s final tax precepts for the Tyne and Wear Fire and Civil Defense Authority and the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner are expected to be confirmed by the full council meeting on 24 February 2022.