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Council set to receive up to £42.2m support loan from government to help tackle financial pressures

Extra financial support has been announced today (Thursday) to help tackle huge pressures on the authority’s finances due to the rising demands of social care.


Stoke-on-Trent City Council has received an ‘in principle’ decision that it can borrow up to £42.2m over the next two years – funding that would allow the authority to change the way children’s services operate to help more children and families to thrive.


Over the two years, up to £20.5m could be drawn down in 2023/24 and £21.7m in 2024/25 which will then need to be paid back in subsequent years.


Council leader Jane Ashworth said: “When we announced our budget proposals in January we were clear that we needed this extra package of exceptional financial support from government to help sustain our essential services and look after the people in our communities who need the most support. We made a compelling case to government, this is not just the Government handing it to us.


“A formal request was submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in December which set out in detail our support requirements for 2023/24 and 2024/25 and a plan for investment of funds in early intervention and early help. This shows the work we have been doing since May has been proven right and judged by officials as the correct way forward. Whilst central government would be granting us special permission, it is important to note the council is still essentially using its own resources to address the challenge we face.


“This money will now support the immediate pressures relating to children in care placement costs and fund investment in early help intervention and wider transformation. It will also be used for financial resilience purposes including funding for redundancies and the attributable interest costs associated with the funding. We plan to pay this money back as soon as we can to minimise interest payments.


“At this present moment, more than 3,500 vulnerable adults require social care support, and 1,148 children are in the council’s care – one in every 52 children in the city – which is the highest number per head of population in the country. These figures are continuing to rise and the only way we can combat this is by investing in these essential services with more early intervention support.


“This being said we still remain ambitious for our city. We want to make a difference to family life and the local economy and bring inward invest into Stoke-on-Trent.”


This announcement comes as last week the council’s cabinet approved the 2024/25 budget proposals. The proposals, which were open to public consultation until 12 February, include raising council tax by 4.99%, with an additional £26.1m invested into social care services to look after the people in our communities who need the most support. This would include a record budgeted investment into adult social care as part of a proposed increase in spend on children’s services, adults’ services and public health to £192.1m.

The budget proposals will now be put before a meeting of the full council on 5 March.


Council leader Jane Ashworth continued: “Although we have received this funding and we are planning to set a balanced budget for 24/25, the way we receive funding from government can simply not continue. I had said this before; government funding has significantly reduced in recent years. There have been years of austerity in which we have been forced to make £270m in savings, and we are not alone– at least one in five councils are facing the prospect of not being able to set a balanced budget in this or future years. We are in continued talks with government on the introduction of a fairer funding formula. We strongly believe this will resolve a lot of the issues we and other councils are facing.”


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