Around this time of year at County Hall, we start to think about our budget for the next financial year in 2024/5. With some £600 million of annual revenue, alongside capital funding, it’s a combined budget of over £1 billion a year for local public services.
It’s worth noting that Nottinghamshire County Council is relatively financially stable compared to other local authorities. We compare favourably to our neighbours in Derbyshire and Leicestershire, for example. Whilst the whole of Local Government is under very significant pressure due to the rising cost of delivering services, we’re not anywhere close to the kind of ‘bankruptcy notice’ that Nottingham City Council issued last week.
People often talk about ‘cuts’ to local government but actually the funding has gone up recently, last year by 9%. However, the issue is that the demand for services and things like staff costs goes up by even more. This has largely been driven by inflation and by rising wages.
We also need to meet the rising demand and complexity of delivering services too, particularly where we have legal obligations, such as in adult and children’s social care. Close to two-thirds of our budget goes on supporting vulnerable people through these services.
Unfortunately in Nottingham City, as we’ve seen last week, those pressures have been exacerbated by poor decisions that have cost taxpayers over £100m, such as the failed Robin Hood Energy Project or the unlawful spending of housing revenue money, meaning that the City Council can’t balance the books any more. This is really sad news for people in the City, because it means that many local services are likely to disappear as they attempt to sort out the finances.
Fortunately, Nottinghamshire County Council is in a relatively good position, on the right side of all the national comparisons, but we do still have a gap somewhere in the region of £13 million where we need to find savings next year.
It’s challenging, but we do it every year, and this time will be no different. Over this period we plan for the worst and hope for the best, ahead of finding out what our Government funding for next year will be. Then in January, we’ll come and tell you what that budget looks like, and what that means.
I think it’s important to stress that last year we were able to deliver very well on people’s expectations, and we really are a stable Council that is in a good position compared to many. But of course, everything in politics is about trade-offs between difficult choices, and locally funding for things like fixing the roads comes from the same pot as for social care, for example, or children’s centres, so there are always tough decisions to be made.
Historically we have done a good job of protecting our local services – did you know we still have 60 libraries, for example? - and working with Government I’ve been able to secure more investment too, such as £4.6m for our roads recently.
I will continue to do all I can from Westminster to secure funds for Mansfield and our area, as we continue to address funding pressures at County Hall. And as the Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, I’ll ensure next year’s budget does everything possible to protect public services, limit the impact on local taxes, and spends tax payers’ money responsibly.