St Helens Borough Council Cabinet has today (Wednesday) approved the 2021-22 budget and a new Medium Term Financial Plan, addressing the impact of funding pressures on services and which also set out how we will use capital funding to support vital regeneration projects across the borough.
The plans will now go to the Full Council meeting next Wednesday, 3rd March for final approval.
The budget for 2021-22 and the three year Financial Plan set out how the council will allocate funds to provide the essential services our communities need – such as social care, maintaining parks, children’s services, bin collections and road maintenance – and how we will use capital funding and prudential borrowing to invest in significant projects.
The budget for 2021/22 will address the way the council can deliver services differently, more collaboration with partners and communities and reviewing existing contracts with providers and income generation like advertising in the borough.
To tackle this pressure among the measures proposed is to apply a three per cent adult social care levy alongside a 1.99 per cent increase on council tax, which would allow an increase of 4.99 per cent without the need for a referendum.
Looking forward the medium-term financial plan puts forward more than £100m in investment through capital spending, which has been identified for a range of community boosting projects. The three-year period of the medium-term financial plan includes £40m funding for redevelopment as part of the first phase of English Cities Fund town centres programme, £1m towards a new bus station, £1m towards a youth zone and £1.2m invested in tackling climate change in the borough.
Those investments sit alongside plans to improve green modes of travel, energy efficient street lighting and sustainable developments.
Council leader Cllr David Baines said: “Setting the budget for 2021-22 and for future years is a huge challenge. In 2010 we St Helens received £127m per year in Government funding – now it’s just £12m per year. At the same time, demand for many services has increased. In the face of these difficulties we have to take some tough decisions with the revenue budget in order to continue to provide essential services. We’re also pushing ahead with plans to modernise the way the council works and delivers services, finding new ways of working and supporting residents and communities together.
“The capital strategy – which is funded by money we can’t use for services – is exciting and shows our commitment to transforming the borough. Projects include investment in the Gamble and Earlestown Town Hall to bring the buildings back into full public use, funding for completely new school buildings at Ashurst Primary School and Penkford School, a new St Helens bus station, a Youth Zone, and investment at Sutton Leisure Centre including reopening the swimming pool and creating a new 3G sports pitch.
“With our new Borough Strategy agreed today as well, we’re setting out a very clear, ambitious and deliverable plan for the council and our borough. It’s a pivotal time, and I look forward to confirming more details in the weeks ahead.”
Councillor Martin Bond, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said: “We cannot shy away from the financial situation we as a council find ourselves in at this moment in time. Set amid a backdrop of the once in a generation impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our borough and the demand for support means we need to make fundamental changes to services and how we as a council work with others.
“We recognise though that to get our borough into a position of strength we need to also kick start regeneration across our communities. We want to do that with residents by our side and in the Medium-Term Financial Plan we have earmarked more than £100m in investments to transform our assets, support people to thrive and work together to protect the most vulnerable in our borough.”