Budget Consultation 2021/22 – 2022/23
Walsall Council, like all councils, is legally required to set a balanced budget. There is a strong medium-term financial strategy in place; however, the budget is reviewed and refreshed annually following detailed consideration of how to allocate available money to best serve the needs of our residents and communities.
The 2020/21 budget was approved by council on 27 February 2020 and is monitored throughout the year to address any performance issues and manage key risks and pressures as they arise. 2020/21 has been a particularly challenging year, with the global pandemic impacting greatly on service delivery and the council’s finances. Emerging service pressures and COVID-19 have required action to be taken to limit the council’s financial exposure. These actions are ongoing as we try to ensure that, at year-end, the budget is balanced with a sufficient level of reserves to manage existing liabilities and emerging risks which may arise in 2021/22, including the unknown ongoing impact of COVID-19.
The council continues to respond to the unprecedented financial challenges imposed by COVID-19. The government originally committed to fully compensating councils for the costs of authorities’ responses to COVID-19 and has to date allocated just under £41m of funding (plus around £54m of business grants) to help support those costs in the borough of Walsall. As well as the initial costs of funding the council’s response, the impact of COVID-19 includes significant loss of income following closure of services and facilities; a considerable impact on the council tax and business rates income; and delays to the delivery of approved budget savings as the council has had to refocus its resources throughout the pandemic.
It is well documented that since 2010, like all other public sector bodies, Walsall has seen government grant funding greatly reduce as part of government plans to reduce their overall deficit. There have continued to be reductions as part of successive government spending reviews. Up to and including 2019/20, these reviews have seen the council reduce spending by around £193m with an expected further £18m savings required to be made during the current year. Government austerity measures have meant our direct funding has reduced considerably from 2010, with a loss of core revenue funding (revenue support grant, top up grant and business rates, net of rolled in grants) of approximately £107m to 2020/21.
Draft budget proposals: policy and operational
The 28 October Cabinet report - Draft Revenue Budget 2021/22 - 2023/24 and in-year position 2020/21 includes a total of 14 policy proposals (saving approximately £1.6m). Of these, 8 policy proposals impact directly on the public and were specifically covered in the consultation starting on 29 October, concluding on 30 November 2020.
As well as policy proposals, there are 106 operational proposals which identify approximately £36m savings made through operational changes such as staffing restructures, the use of new technology and new ways of working. Most operational proposals do not impact directly on the public as the changes are 'behind the scenes,' however, there are 9 operational proposals involving changes to fees and charges. While operational proposals are savings that the service can decide to implement and they do not require Cabinet approval or formal consultation, public comments and feedback were sought as part of consultation on the wider budget which closed on 30 November 2020.
List of draft policy proposals (October 2020) (.pdf)
List of draft operational proposals (October 2020) (.pdf)
Consultation is now closed.
Consultation on Council Tax Precept for Adult Social Care and general increase in council tax
In 2015 the government introduced the Adults Social Care Precept, which allowed those councils with adult social care responsibilities to increase their share of council tax by up to an extra 2%. In 2016 the secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced that for the 3 years from 2017/18 to 2019/20 councils would be allowed to further increase the precept by up to 3% in any given year, but no more than 6% in total over those years. This was then extended by a further 2% for 2020/21.
Government has set a limit of 3% for 2021/22 as part of the Spending Review on 25 November 2020. This precept is ring fenced to spend on supporting Adult Social Care, in recognition that local authorities are experiencing increased demographic pressures in supporting an ever-increasing elderly population.
Our approved budget for 2020/21 included a general increase in council tax of 1.99% plus 2% precept for social care, a total increase of 3.99%. Draft plans for 2021/22 also include a general increase of 1.99%.
Due to increased demand and changes in demographics, adult social care continues to face ongoing budget pressures, £6.8m of which is included in the approved budget for 2020/21, and £4.5m in the draft plans for 2021/22 subject to approval. The increase in council tax from the adult social care precept, if included in the budget, would fund part of this increased cost, with the remainder to be funded from other sources.
No formal decision will be made on the general increase in council tax of 1.99%, and 3% social care precept, until the final budget is approved by council on 25 February 2021.
Undoubtedly, these are challenging times and difficult decisions will have to be made.
Table 1 shows the impact of a 1.99% increase on council tax bands. Most properties in Walsall (67.47%) are in council tax bands A or B, as shown in the table below.
Table 2 shows the impact of a further 3% increase on council tax bands if the Adult Social Care precept is applied.
In line with our statutory duty to consult Non Domestic Rate Payers (businesses and the voluntary sector) on our Draft Revenue Budget 2020/21 - 2023/24 and changes to Council Tax, consultation took place between 17 December 2020 and 7 January 2021.
Final budget proposals will be formalised by our Cabinet on 10 February 2021 for recommendation to full Council on 25 February 2021.
Budget setting timeline
- Public consultation on draft proposals 29 October - 30 November 2020
- Scrutiny Committees receive the draft revenue budget proposals from 3 November with feedback to Cabinet on 9 December 2020
- Cabinet on 9 December 2020 - updated draft revenue budget, further saving proposals for 2021/22, analysis of the Spending Review/Round 2020 and, if available, the draft core grant Settlement from Government
- Scrutiny Committees receive the further budget proposals for comment, along with draft capital programme proposals
- Statutory consultation for business rates payers to January 2021
- Budget briefings for political groups and independent members, as required
- Council tax base to be approved by the s151 Officer by January 2021
- Receipt of the final settlement late January / early February 2021
- Recommendation of the final budget by Cabinet on 10 February 2021
- Council set the final budget envelope (statutory determinations) and council tax on 25 February 2021
The council's vision, purpose, values and priorities: Our Corporate Plan 2018–21
Walsall Council as a local authority has a statutory duty to deliver specific services within the borough boundaries for all people and communities in Walsall. The duty on Walsall Council includes a huge range of services from social services to planning applications and from the collection of waste to the collection of council tax and non-domestic rates. Whilst the council must fulfil its statutory dutes, it does so in the service of and by working with individuals and all communities to support the most vulnerable, and provide the environment and opportunities for all people and communities to fulfil their potential.
Increasingly the austerity measures affecting the whole country are impacting on the council and in these increasingly challenging times it is more important than ever that there is a clear purpose that drives the way the council works and what the council delivers.
Ultimately, the council exists to serve the people and communities of Walsall, by representing and working with them to protect and improve the quality of life for all, particularly the most vulnerable. Read more about the council's vision, purpose,values and priorities in the Corporate Plan 2018-2021.
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