Medium Term Financial Plan 2018 - 2022 (proposals)
On 12 December 2017 Cabinet will consider a proposed medium term financial plan (2018-2021/22) for the Council. Full details can be found in the Cabinet papers. If approved for consultation, the public will be invited to give their views on the proposal by 24 January 2018.
Although delivering the 2016 - 2020 medium term financial plan (MTFP) has been extremely challenging, as we approach the halfway point we remain on target to achieve it and we now need to look ahead at proposals for a MTFP for 2018 - 2022.
The ongoing challenge of delivering our Core services should not be underestimated. To enable us to maintain services at current levels the Council proposes a 1.99% increase in Council Tax and a 3% social care levy, as recommended by the Government, to help fund Adult Social Care for 2018/19 and subsequent years.
However, there is also some positive news. Due to prudent investment, increased income, further reductions to senior management (including removing the Chief Executive post), and use of some unallocated reserves; the Council has been able to release an additional £4.4m over the next four years which will be added to our futures fund. The futures fund is a one off pot of money that will be available for the period of the MTFP to support key priorities and improve key services that have been hit the hardest. We can use this for one off investments, short term revenue activities, or a combination of the two.
Our proposals (subject to Cabinet approval)
We want to use these additional funds to help support key priorities and improve key services that have been hit the hardest; but first we want to hear residents’ views on how best to spend this money under five suggested themes:
Theme 1 – Community Safety
Poor community safety, or the perception of it, can deter growth. Funds could be used to identify and provide early-intervention solutions for vulnerable people to help reduce further demand and look at a co-ordinated, multi-agency approach targeting priority areas.
Theme 2 – Maintaining a clean street environment
Despite innovative new ways of working we’ve been unable to counteract the significant reduction in Street Scene services, which means the local environment has suffered. We would aim to increase grass cutting levels and cleaning of back lanes, along with a one-off investment in priority areas for deep cleans and improvements in run down areas.
Theme 3 – Maintaining a vibrant town centre
As with many other towns, Darlington faces challenges from the increase in online shopping and out of town retailing. We’d invest in more events to increase footfall, support the markets, promote the town centre and design schemes to attract businesses, as well as provide match-funding with the private sector for improvement schemes.
Theme 4 – Developing an attractive visitor economy, particularly supporting rail heritage and culture
Funding to be used to prepare and plan for the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025 and promote our heritage and culture.
Theme 5 – Neighbourhood renewal projects
As a result of ongoing austerity measures there are still inequalities in the borough in areas such as employment, health, housing and education which need to be tackled. The Healthy New Towns approach used in Red Hall has seen benefits and we would aim to support other schemes, partnerships and work with communities.
Background to our financial challenges
Since 2010/11 the Council has faced unprecedented financial challenges as a result of reductions in public sector spending. This has led to a drop in government funding in real terms of £42.4m for Darlington – a figure that is expected to increase to £51.2m in real terms by 2021/22.
It led to some hard decisions being made about the Council’s services as we had to reduce our spending by £45.4m, with the loss of 730 staff. If approved, the proposed changes will mean a total reduction in senior management costs of £2.7m since 2010. Reducing our spending was necessary as we are legally required to set a balanced budget so we had to align our budget with our anticipated costs and income.
These reductions have come at a time when demands for Council services are increasing, particularly in social care, and despite our best efforts to minimise the impact, the level of funding cuts has been so severe it has inevitably been felt by residents and people using our services.
In 2016, an in-depth review of Council services was followed by a detailed public consultation, which resulted in a four-year budget being set to fund the broad ranges of services the Council must provide by law – our Core Offer - everything from adult social care to winter maintenance.
Find out more and have your say
Full details of the 2018 - 2022 budget proposals can be found in the Cabinet papers. You can also read our full press release about the proposed changes. We understand that people may still have questions to ask. We will try to capture questions from the feedback forms, email correspondence and comments on social media and will start to post answers on a dedicated questions and answers page.
If approved by Cabinet on 12 December 2017, a consultation on the proposals will start immediately and run until 24 January 2018. Following the consultation, feedback will be considered by Cabinet before being put to full Council for a decision in February.
You will be able to give us your views by completing an online form (available from 13 December 2017). Alternatively, we can provide the feedback form in other formats upon request. To request an alternative format, please contact the Strategy and Performance team on 01325 406080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.