Tough decisions and investment in the people and future of Knowsley

Published on: Wednesday, 09-March-2016

Councillors have tonight approved a range of initiatives, savings and efficiencies totalling £20m, which will balance the 2016/17 budget and help towards the budget gap in 2017/18.

The savings will be achieved through a range of means including changes to the way services are being delivered, contract reviews which have identified efficiencies and a further reduction in the Council’s workforce - the vast majority of which will be achieved through voluntary redundancy and fixed term contracts coming to an end.
 
Since 2010, the Council has already had to make £75m of savings due to the drastic funding cuts from central Government.
 
At the meeting, Council made the tough decision to increase Council Tax in 2016/17.  Council Tax has been frozen for Knowsley residents for the last five years, but due to the significant funding cuts imposed by the Government and the new requirement to fund adult social care budget pressures through local taxation, the Council has no option but to approve an increase. 
 
From 1 April 2016 Council Tax will increase by 3.99% - at least 2% of this will be specifically used to contribute towards funding Adult Social Care. This does not fully fund the budget pressure for social care as the increase in Council Tax would generate just over half a million pounds, whilst the year on year budget pressure for adult social care is £3m. The amount generated through the 2% precept is significantly less than the amount needed and will be an issue in future years, particularly with the predicted ageing population.
 
Alternative ways to deliver services have also been considered.  An example is leisure services, which will be managed by Volair, a newly established council-owned company, from 1 April 2016 which over time, will be run at no cost to the Council. 

As well as the savings, Council approved plans to invest in the issues that matter most to the local community, which will make savings in the long-term, reduce the number of residents claiming benefits and attract more residents into the borough.

The £5.1m investment package includes funding to help raise educational attainment through the establishment of an Education Commission consisting of education leaders (at a local, regional and national level), young people, parents and business leaders. Through the Commission, high quality teaching practices and teachers will be developed, governance and leadership in education will be strengthened and ways to help young people to be ‘fit for work’ will be explored. In addition, £2.8m will be invested in a ‘ways to work’ programme which will support 4,000 unemployed residents to find work over the next three years.

Cllr Bill Weightman, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said “We know that over the next four years, we need to find £46 million of savings. This is a huge sum of money for any borough to find, but coming on top of the reductions we have made, this is our toughest challenge yet.
 
“We have been able to freeze Council Tax for the last five years but due to the significant funding cuts we face, we have had to make some tough decisions and increasing Council Tax is one of those decisions. 
 
“We are working hard to ensure the services our residents need are as protected as they can be. For example, investing in education and ensuring our residents have the right skills to access employment opportunities are key priorities we will be addressing and investing in over the coming years.”