Torbay Council’s Cabinet has now published its revenue and capital budget proposals for 2024/25 and wants to hear from those who live and work in Torbay what their thoughts are on them, helping to shape next year’s plans.
The proposed budget has been prepared during a period of continued financial uncertainty.
Even though the high rates of inflation are reducing, residents and businesses continue to struggle with high prices, which in turn impacts on the Council’s income levels. The Council, like all businesses, are also continuing to pay more for goods and services.
The Council currently delivers £350m worth of services to those who live and work in Torbay. Not everyone has experience of all these services, but there continues to be a need for all of them. Along with the population living longer and cost of living pressures, the council are experiencing an increase in the demand for its services as well as an increase in the costs providing them.
The Local Government Finance Settlement for 2024/25 was issued in late December 2023, highlighting that total Core Spending Power will rise by 6.5 per cent in 2024/25. Whilst the Revenue Support Grant was increased for inflation, this only accounts for £8.2m and most of the funding now comes from Council Tax and Business Rates.
At this stage of the budget setting, the Council need to find a further circa £300,000 of extra income or cost savings. There is absolute confidence that these savings will be delivered over the next financial year to create a balanced budget.
The savings will be focussed on ‘big ticket’ items that will be delivered over a number of years, ensuring a long term sustainable financial future for the Council; whilst also providing better outcomes for children and young people, vulnerable adults and those facing uncertain housing situations.
Ensuring that residents are put at the heart of everything the council does, the Cabinet is looking to focus on the following areas in 2024/25:
§ Invest £1.9 million into Children’s Services to meet the ongoing service demand and inflationary increases in pay and provider costs.
§ Continued focus on early help, prevention and Family Hubs, ensuring more children and young people stay within a family-based environment.
§ Review and carefully revise the current home to school transport provision while supporting the needs of those who use the service.
Adult Social Care
§ Increase the contract fee to Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust by £1.1m to support the pressure they are experiencing in delivering services to vulnerable adults.
§ Focus on reablement, learning disability support and extra care provisions, working efficiently while promoting independence and supporting people to remain in their own homes.
§ Invest an additional £0.9m to meet the pressures of temporary accommodation, prevent homelessness and supporting the operation of the homeless hostel.
§ Focus on prevention, helping people to maintain stable, sustainable, self-funded housing through the right targeted intervention.
Pride in Torbay
§ Through Operation Brighter Bay, invest £300,000 per year to bring the three towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham up to a standard to be proud of. This will include increases in grass cutting, keeping kerbsides weed free, improving road marking, cleaning of town centres and repairing of potholes.
§ Operation Town Centre’s will see an investment of £300,000 per year to tackle anti-social behaviour and its causes.
§ Allocate £1m over four years to support the running of highly valued events.
§ Fund urgent repairs at Oldway Mansion
The Capital plan includes:
§ Working with newly announced Regeneration Partner to deliver the aims of the Capital Plan with more confidence and certainty.
§ £25m of capital works to take place including flood defences, schools and housing.
The Council will continue to use its resources to best effects. This will include investing in services like IT, increasing fees and charges in line with inflation, as well as making savings in running and live streaming statutory meetings.
More information on the proposals:
Children’s Services continues to face significant financial pressures due to extreme external forces outside of the control of the Council. Overall numbers of cared for children are lower than previous years, but the shortage of suitable available placements is driving up costs within the market nationally. The service is vulnerable to changes in demand for its services, in particular residential care where a relatively small change in numbers could have a significant financial impact. The investment into the services will provide a stable base for the service to continue to move towards the Council’s aspiration for an Outstanding service.
They will also continue to focus on early help, prevention and the development of the Family Hubs, ensuring costs are appropriate and making savings without impacting delivery.
With regard to the home to school transport provision, identifying savings will be managed very carefully to ensure thorough risk-assessments are carried out to ensure individual needs are met. The aim here is to work with children and young people to promote safely their independence.
Adult Social Care
Within Adult Social Care the increase in the Social Care Grant will be used to support the provision of care through the Integrated Care Organisation which is delivered by the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.
Torbay Council state “We will continue to work closely with Trust colleagues to ensure that social care grants such as the Discharge Grant and Market Sustainability and Improvement Funds are used effectively, developing plans in partnership to meet the needs of our communities.”
The Council have to provide investment in this area to meet the pressures for temporary accommodation and prevention of homelessness. This investment will also support the running of the homeless hostel, which is now under Council control and already showing a big impact by reducing the amount of time people are staying there and improving outcomes.
Pride in Torbay
Operation Brighter Bay aims to present Torbay in the best possible way for those who live, work and visit. This investment will be in residential areas as well as in the Bay’s more high-profile areas. This funding along with efficiencies within SWISCo will provide service improvements.
By improving the road markings this will also improve road safety, traffic flow and access to parking spaces. And a change in how potholes are repaired will mean more are dealt with within the funds available.
Operation Town Centres will ensure Torbay is safe and welcoming. This investment will provide additional enforcement officers and support and welfare staff to address the root cause behind anti-social behaviour.
Torbay has received further Government investment of more than £71million in 2023. This means a total of £105 million is now available to invest within Torbay. This will help deliver on the key regeneration projects. It is intended to use Government funding alongside Capital resources to work in a three-way partnership with the newly announced Regeneration Partner and local communities to deliver the aims of the Capital Plan with more confidence and certainty.
These budget proposals not only focus on town centres but allow the council to deliver capital growth across the whole of Torbay so each of the three towns will benefit. It will also address some of the long-term problems within the Bay including affordable housing solutions.
Allocated monies will also allow progress of much-loved heritage projects, providing a new future for both the Pavilion and Oldway Mansion.
Will Council Tax need to rise and what support is available?
The quick answer to this is yes and this is why. The cost-of-living crisis, which is affecting all households, is also having a significant impact on the Council as a whole. The costs for providing services which all Torbay residents benefit from on a day-to-day basis continues to increase.
To ensure we can continue to deliver services in the future, Cabinet (like many other Councils across the UK) are looking to increase Council Tax. The Finance Settlement assumes that councils will increase council tax bills by the maximum permitted by referendum limits. Torbay though won’t be increasing it by the maximum level set by Government, recognising the financial burdens that households continue to face.
Instead of the maximum increase of 2.99%, in Torbay the increase is proposed to be 2.75%. And in recognition of the pressures in adult social care, it is proposed that the 2% adult social care precept is charged. This makes the proposed total Council Tax increase 4.75%.
As always, this isn’t a decision that has been taken lightly, but the income from Council Tax supports the services that the council delivers and that is valued by the community.
Each 1% increase in Council Tax generates £840,000 of income and it is the only means that the Council has to raise additional funding for place-based and housing services.
The council are aware of the financial pressures faced by many households across Torbay which is why a new Council Tax Support Scheme has recently been approved. This is now based on household income, not just linked to benefits, which means more households across the Bay can apply for a reduction to their Council Tax bill. This will provide over £500,000 of additional discounts to many of our residents most in need of financial support.
Cllr David Thomas, Leader of Torbay Council, said; “This is our first budget since forming the Cabinet in May 2023. Our principles have always included strong financial management and we approached this budget with those same fundamentals – focusing on the ongoing revenue pressures, developing saving plans for the future, providing clarity with our Capital Investment Plan, whilst ensuring we concentrate on the things that matter to our residents. Our Children and Adult Social Care budgets continue to dominate our attention and this budget provides, where necessary, increased resources to maintain our highly acclaimed services.
“We know that a number of Councils, both locally and across the country are issuing, or having to consider issuing Section 114 notices. Thankfully, we are pleased to be in a different situation, and this is because of the difficult decisions and financial savings that the Council has had to make over the past decade. It now enables us to take a longer-term strategic approach in proposing the budget, moving away from top-slicing and being able to look beyond a single financial year and set the direction for the next three to four years. In taking that longer-term view, we are able to plan for known bumps in the road. However, our strong foundations of stable financial management will create the building blocks for us to move forward with better certainty and a clear understanding of our financial position.”
The consultation will run from Wednesday 10 January until midnight on Wednesday 7 February.
The budget papers and consultation will be available on the council website on Wednesday 10 January at www.torbay.gov.uk/budget
If you would like to receive the budget papers and consultation in another format, either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01803 201201.
There will also be an engagement event taking place on Saturday 27 January 2024 in the St. Marychurch precinct from 10 am to 4 pm. Come along, speak with councillors and Council Officers and you will have the opportunity to feedback on the proposals.
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