Friday, February 20, 2015

News: Rotherham Council puts forward budget proposals


Rotherham Council has put forward budget proposals for the next financial year as it waits for the prospect of Government-appointed commissioners taking over all of its executive functions.

On the back of a government report that concluded that Rotherham Council has failed its citizens, is failing to comply with the statutory best value duty and needs a fresh start, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced details of an intervention package in the House of Commons.

In the immediate term Pickles said that he was minded to appoint commissioners who will provide new leadership, taking over the roles of the current "wholly dysfunctional" cabinet, which promptly announced intentions to "resign our positions as soon as transitional arrangements can be put in place."

The council's budget has been published today as government Commissioners have yet to be appointed and the Council has a legal duty to publish a budget. If Commissioners are not in post by Thursday February 26, the Budget proposals will be moved by the Council's Cabinet. The final decision still remains with Full Council on March 4, but may be subject to further recommendations or amendments.

The budget addresses £23m of cuts with headline-grabbing savings made by cutting the cost of councillors, scrapping the Imagination Library free book scheme and reducing the funding to City Learning Centres.

A 1.95% increase in Council Tax is being proposed to prop up the total revenue budget of £203.554m.

The council has agreed to continue to focus and deliver on business and jobs growth to meet its priority of getting people into work and getting work to pay. Services are set to remain that stimulate the local economy and help local people into work.

In light of damning reports that described how vulnerable children have been repeatedly failed by the council and that painted "a disturbing picture of a council failing in its duty to protect vulnerable children and young people from harm," the Children's Safeguarding budget is set to be ring-fenced and an additional £824,000 put into Children's Services budgets.

A "Transformation Reserve" of around £11m will initially be utilised to meet the likely significant additional costs and potential liabilities resulting from the Jay and Casey reports.

The budget proposals also include an extra £200,000 investment in street cleansing services across the borough. Separately, the proposed capital budget allocates an additional investment of £5m to improve the Borough's roads and fix pot holes over the next two years.

For the Environment & Development Services directorate, savings put forward include remodelling waste PFI costs, the loss of posts in the planning department, ceasing the annual subscriptions to tourist agency, Welcome to Yorkshire, and raising income by disposing of council buildings and other assets.

Cllr. Chris Read, appointed Leader of the ruling Labour Group this week, said: "This is the next stage in bringing change to Rotherham Council. We continue to face big cuts to council budgets made by the Tory-led government, but we have been listening carefully to the views of local residents. We are making good on our commitment to bolster and improve Children's Services after the Jay and Casey Reports, and to provide stable funding for the long term support that victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation need.

"We have heard directly the concerns of residents about littering and the state of the roads, so these areas will also see additional investment. I'm particularly pleased that because of the decisions we are proposing, there should be no net job losses at the council as a result of these proposals."

Rotherham Council website

Images: RMBC


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