Rotherham: Council Tax to rise as authority makes £23million budget cuts

Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate
Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate

Council Tax is set to rise across Rotherham as the council approved a range of measures to save £23million.

Rotherham Council’s cabinet agreed measures in the face of a ‘relentless’ reduction in funding from the Government.

These include a recommendation to increase Council Tax by 1.9 per cent, the first time in four years.

The authority - which has already cut £70million from its budget since 2010 - has had to make further savings of £23million for the 2014/15 financial year, and must find an additional £23million worth of savings by April 2015.

It said the package, which must go before the full council for final approval on 5th March, will protect frontline services as ‘far as possible, resources will be targeted to help those most in needs and communities will be encouraged to do more for themselves.

Coun Roger Stone, council leader, said councillors had moved to safeguard frontline services for as a long as realistically possible, but now continued and unprecedented cuts to funding mean that ‘regretfully’ they can no longer be totally shielded.

“We have already looked hard at every penny we spend and we reduced our back office and management structures early to protect frontline services over recent years,” he said.

“This includes a reduction in our senior management team by 40 per cent and our overall employee numbers have dropped by almost 20 per cent, cutting costs by £27 million every year.”

“However, the Government’s relentless and devastating budget cuts mean we are entering a new era where we must prioritise spending even more, where we cannot do everything we have previously and where some things have to stop.

“It’s an era where our main role will be helping people to become more self-reliant rather than us doing things on their behalf.”

The proposals were drawn up following consultation with the public, and reflect many of the ideas put forward by local people.

They include savings from each directorate, totalling £14.4million - children and young people’s service - £3million; neighbourhoods and adult services - £7million; environment and development services - £3.1million and resources (back office) - £1.3million.

Maximising income, working more efficiently with partners and improving back office systems will also contribute to the total £23million.

The package includes a target to save £644,000 from the review of staff terms and conditions, which will be the subject of consultation with employees and unions.

Coun Stone added that there were no easy decisions, and that it is with great reluctance that a reduction in frontline services and an increase in Council Tax has been considered.

He said: “It is acknowledged that Government budget cuts are hitting northern towns like Rotherham more severely.”

“Despite this we have defended services like libraries, children’s centres and day care centres, and frozen Council Tax for as long as realistically possible, while other towns have already lost them.”

“But we no longer have a choice, and we have faced very difficult decisions because we know every change will impact on someone.”

Rotherham’s £208.9million budget for 2014/15 will pay for services for those most in need. The council’s priorities for it being to work with partners to protect and support the most vulnerable young people, families and elderly citizens; to generate jobs and support people to get the skills they need to compete for them; to protect the most important libraries and community buildings and facilities; to buy time to try and find alternative ways of delivering some Children’s Centres services; to maintain spending on street cleansing and local community safety and to devise different ways of working to support people earlier to save the need for more expensive interventions later.