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Council wants long-term financial certainty

Staffordshire County Council successfully continues to balance its books, but there are some tough choices on the horizon, says its finance chief.

Rising inflation has added £25 million to Staffordshire County Council’s predicted costs for 2023/24, while increased energy bills and pay rises have also hit budgets.

And the authority has earmarked around two-thirds of next year’s anticipated £587 million net budget for the provision of social care for the elderly and for supporting vulnerable children and young people.

Despite promising a balanced budget for 2023/24 which will maintain investment in highways and infrastructure, school buildings and apprenticeships, Ian Parry, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Finance and Resources warned that long-term issues are unresolved.

He said: “We are a well-run, stable authority that continues to invest in the future while supporting those who need help now.

“So we will balance our books for the coming year, partly helped by the Government postponing the Adult Social Care reforms for two years, but there is a feeling that serious challenges are just around the corner unless something changes.

“We are still waiting for a fairer way to allocate grant funding to councils and we cannot leave local taxpayers to bear the funding of Adult Social Care – we still need a sustainable long-term solution at a national level.”

The combined cost of adult social care and protecting vulnerable young people means that for every £10 the authority spends, £3.50 remains for highways, libraries, country parks, recycling centres and other services.

Ian Parry added: “We have taken many steps to deliver support differently, often seeking to reduce the need for costly complex services with early intervention where it is safe and practical to do so.

“And we continue to invest in supporting businesses big and small to provide jobs in Staffordshire, but the fact remains that with an ageing population and the demands upon us we will have to think hard about what we do for 2024/25 and beyond.”

Final decisions, including the proposed council tax, will be taken in the New Year once a final settlement from central Government has been provided.

That settlement is expected to confirm that local authorities can raise their council tax to 4.99 per cent without a referendum – the figure comprising 2.99 per cent for general purposes and 2 per cent ringfenced for social care.


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