Tuesday, February 27, 2018

News: Rotherham Council set to approve budget

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Rotherham Council is set to approve its latest budget at a full council meeting this week as it looks to make £15.1m of budget savings in the next financial year.

The focus has been on identifying "efficiency savings" and also on maximising income generation opportunities in order to minimise the impact on front line services to the public.

A report to the council states: "Over the last seven years from 2011/12 to 2017/18, the Council has had to make ongoing savings of £162m, mainly as a result of the financial reductions imposed on local government as part of the Government's austerity programme."

Budgets have been stretched further by the Governance improvements required and implemented since the Jay and Casey reports of 2014 and 2015 and with the increasing demand on social care services.

The authority admits that it is not possible to commit to future delivery of the full range of services currently provided.

The Council does say that it will remain a key lever for growth and investment in Rotherham and the wider Sheffield City Region and one key focus is to "drive inclusive growth and ensure Rotherham's residents are connected to local good quality job opportunities."

The current proposed revenue budget for 2018/19 is £216.876m and the Capital Programme includes £425m of capital investment over the five years 2017/18 to 2021/22. If approved, Council Tax will increase by 5.99%.

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The capital investment strategy is targeting critical infrastructure and housing, and there is a focus on strategic development projects / sites including the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District; widening the network of Business Incubation Centres and driving the pace of the Town centre masterplan with the Forge Island development.

Along with adopting a more commercial, outward facing approach, the hope is that the investment will boost income to the Council through the New Homes Bonus, Council Tax income and retained Business Rates.

Income generation is expected from projects such as the £4.7m Beighton Link investment and the new £4.7m camping and caravan park at Rother Valley Country Park.

The regeneration team is tasked with working to attract investment and new business, while ensuring that the borough's existing businesses receive the support they need to grow and make further investment. This is likely to focus on integrated transport, housing, vocational skills and good quality green spaces and cultural offer.

As previously reported by Rothbiz, the Rotherham Youth Enterprise service is under threat with budget proposals set to cut the team down to two staff.

The capital strategy includes projects such as the £4.6m revamp of College Road Roundabout where the Council is set to provide match funding of £1.390m. £1.312m has also been set aside for much-need repairs to Crinoline Bridge.

Other projects include the £42m planned to widen the Parkway, the £9.8m Waverley Link Road, £16m to invest in the town centre, and a £5m Growth Fund to support businesses.

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "It is an incredibly challenging time for local government across the piece. Some of the numbers we have seen nationally over the last few weeks bear witness to the challenge that all councils are facing at this time of austerity and at a time of growing demand for both adults and children's social care.

"All those factors come together to place pressure on authorities like ours so we are prioritising protecting both adults and children's social care in this budget. That does mean that there is an impact then on other non-social care budgets.

"We are also trying to move towards more revenue generating activities, particularly around regen and environment, and lots and lots of activity is taking place, particularly in finance, around how else we can best finance that budget in order to protect frontline services."

Images: RMBC

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