Mayor proposes council budget to support Doncaster Covid recovery
Mayor Ros Jones has today (8 February) launched her draft budget proposals for 2022/23 alongside the publishing of the council’s draft corporate plan. Together these documents set out how the council plans to deliver services, support residents and businesses and achieve Doncaster’s ambitions.
Despite ongoing uncertainty around government funding and the continued response to the Covid pandemic, the proposals set a balanced budget whilst protecting the most vulnerable across the borough and providing resources to improve opportunities. The council now has 28% less to spend on services in real terms than it did in 2010/11 which creates challenges and represents a £335 reduction per resident.
This budget provides sufficient resources to enable front line services to continue to deliver at their current service levels despite increased service pressures and rising inflation. Mayor Jones has also allocated an additional £750,000 for additional apprenticeships within the council which will target hard to fill roles. Covid has not gone away, the budget proposals ensure specific resources are available for Covid infection control and prevention measures during 2022/23.
Some difficult decisions have been made to balance the budget and meet an overall recurrent budget gap of £13.1m in 2022/23. Savings have been necessary but wherever possible these minimise the impact on service delivery. These savings will be delivered through new ways of working, deployment of technology and generating additional income without negatively impacting on critical services. Overall these budget proposals meet the £21.7m budget gap over the 3 years.
In light of the pressures and future risks, a Council Tax increase of 1.99% is being proposed alongside a further 2.5% increase for Adult Social Care (4.49% in total). The Adult Social Care precept is specifically used to contribute towards the additional Adult Social Care funding pressures.
Overall this will increase Band A Council Tax by 83p per week and Band D by £1.25 per week. To offset the impact of this and to help support those residents who are struggling, the Local Council Tax Reduction scheme remains in place and is supplemented by the introduction of a hardship support payment of up to £300 per household per annum. In addition, the Local Assistance Scheme funds will be increased by £450,000 to provide a safety net for periods of hardship experienced by families.
Doncaster will still continue to have the lowest council tax in South Yorkshire and one of the lowest overall in comparison to other councils of similar size in the country.
The Corporate Plan sets out the council’s priorities and how they contribute to the long term partnership strategy, Doncaster Delivering Together. This year the council will continue to focus on tackling climate change by retrofitting homes and planting more trees, supporting more people to get new skills and access good work opportunities, building quality new homes and reducing the impact of poverty across the borough by ensuring financial support gets to those who need it most.
Mayor Jones said: “My focus continues to be on protecting our most vulnerable residents and making sure our borough can thrive. We continue to face significant financial challenges particularly around Adults & Children’s Social Care but this is not unique to Doncaster, it is a national issue. With still no certainty from government about funding beyond the next year, it is hard to plan ahead.
“Thankfully, we are a financially well managed council and I will do whatever I can to mitigate the impacts of uncertainty. I remain firmly focused on supporting Doncaster’s priorities outlined in the corporate plan and the 10 year borough strategy – Doncaster Delivering Together to create a safer, stronger, cleaner and greener Doncaster.”
Mayor Jones added: “I want our borough, communities and individuals to flourish so investment in our people and place must continue, including the investment in apprenticeships I am proposing which provide opportunities to equip individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviour they need for specific job roles, future employment and progression.”
An estimated £386.9m of capital investment is planned over the next four years that will continue to stimulate growth and prosperity, with £141.6m of spend estimated for 2022/23.
The council is investing in projects to further improve core services such as education, housing, infrastructure, leisure and culture, as well as attracting investors and visitors to the borough. This includes £196.8m investment in the council’s social housing stock over the next four years, covering maintenance, adaptations and the new build programme.
A further £29.9m is proposed for continued investment over the next year in our leisure facilities, retained public buildings and fleet replacement with the acquisition of electric vehicles being prioritised where possible.
Mayor Jones has also allocated an additional £6m for improving the condition of our roads, with the focus being on adopted estate roads on a ‘worst first’ basis. This will also include £1m towards roads safety improvements.
The full list of investment proposals are included in the report.
The proposals also include a council house rent increase of 4.1% in line with the government’s policy on rents for social housing which equates to an average weekly rent increase of £3.
The Mayor’s draft proposals will be considered by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee on 10th February and then Cabinet on 16th February before they are discussed at Full Council on 28th February. The proposals and the draft corporate plan can be viewed on the council website via the cabinet meeting agenda page.