The City Council is reminding all residents, businesses, and community groups to voice their opinions on what should be included in the upcoming services budget.
The council provides more than 600 services from adult and children’s social care, waste and recycling collections, to libraries and parks.
This year’s budget was £764m. But because of the cost of living crisis, increasing demand for services, especially in social care, and uncertainty over Government funding arrangements, there is a funding gap of £30m for next year.
The council is planning to use £9m of reserves to help plug the gap, reducing it to £21m and is looking at other cost saving measures and efficiencies. A Government announcement later this month – the Local Government Financial Settlement – will also influence the budget.
Consultation on proposals is here: www.sunderland.gov.uk/letstalkbudget
Cabinet Secretary Councillor Paul Stewart said:
“Demand and costs continue to increase for both children’s and adult social care and we face further needs in areas where we already spend the most.
“Upcoming social care funding reforms provide more challenges in how we fund these changes in coming years and we cannot meet the savings required without making some difficult decisions. In some cases, proposals we are considering this year will include changes to how we deliver some of our services.”
In the Autumn Statement, the Government said councils could increase council tax by 5 per cent (including 2 per cent for social care) in the absence of sufficient funding from the Government. Last year the council tax in Sunderland raised 15 per cent (£115m) of the council’s allocated income with the majority of funding coming from Government grants.
Sunderland’s budget proposals are on the basis of a 2.99 per cent council tax rise.
This would mean a Band A property, which are the majority of Sunderland households (approx. 60 per cent) paying 61p more per week and Band D properties paying 91p more per week. This would still mean Sunderland having the North East’s lowest council tax rates.
Cllr Stewart said: “We are all very aware of the cost of living crisis and the impact this is having on household bills as energy, shopping, transport and so many other costs continue to rise. Therefore we do not feel it right, appropriate or fair to look to what the Government is suggesting that council tax bills rise by five per cent and that households are given another burden on their already stretched finances.”
If the tax was increased by this 2.99 per cent in line with the council’s current proposals it would raise £3.5m and if increased in line with the new Government rules it would raise an additional £2.34m.
Cllr Stewart added:
“As a council we continue to aspire and work for a more dynamic, healthy and vibrant smart city. The next budget proposals already outline £41m of investments in our infrastructure and a further £700m of investment is planned over the next five years.
“It is now vitally important that we hear from you and what you think about our suggested approach on services and day to day spending. Your views help inform the proposals and what becomes our next services budget in these very trying circumstances.”
Consultation is closing on Sunday 8 January. All survey data is anonymous and not shared outside of the council.