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Article date - 05 March 2020
Councillors approved the financial plan at Council on Wednesday evening as the council looks to balance the books for 2020/21.
Measures include more than one third of the £5m in savings to be made coming from income generation by increasing the council’s commercial activity, alongside a transformational plan to change the way the council works to make it more efficient. A further £5m budget gap will be filled by using one off reserves.
By growing our local economy through encouraging new businesses and supporting existing ones to grow over the past year we will see an extra £2.1m in business rates.
The pressures of adult social care and children’s services continues to grow and 71 per cent of the council’s budget goes directly to these vital services that support our most vulnerable people.
The Government is allowing councils to use a two per cent precept on council tax that goes specifically to fund social care which St Helens Council will introduce along with a 1.99 per cent council tax rise, which will also go towards supporting the most in need in St Helens Borough.
These increases will bring in an extra £3m which will help us make sure our budget is robust and balanced.
Councillor Martin Bond, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: "This year has been the most challenging for local authority finance since austerity began. The last three years had funding certainty which allowed longer term planning. This year, after 10 long years of Central Government grant reduction the settlement was delayed by Brexit and the General Election. A one year settlement, announced late in the day, doesn’t assist planning the budget in the medium to long term which in turn benefits strategic approaches to delivery of services.
"We are doing all we can to increase our income generation and we’re showing our commitment by creating a new post to look at how we can maximise our opportunities to raise money. Transforming the way we work as a council will also help us not only be more efficient but work better with our partners to provide residents the right kind of support.
“We cannot do this alone though and we understand that it is a great ask of residents to pay more in Council Tax but we hope they understand that the vast majority of the additional money will be going directly to the vital work that adult social care and children’s services do for those who need it in our borough.
“Our Council Tax will still be the lowest on Merseyside and the increase will equate to less than £1 a week for more than 85 per cent of households. We believe we should do the right thing for those most in need and we will continue to find ways to support them such as extending council tax support to our care leavers to the age of 25.”