New investment in key local services and a higher Living Wage for the lowest-paid council staff are among the measures included in Knowsley Council’s budget for 2018/19.
Councillors agreed the budget at the full council meeting held tonight (Wednesday 7 March).
They set a balanced budget which includes new, permanent investment of £770,000 in Children’s Social Care and a one-off investment of £1.75m in the first phase of the regeneration of Huyton Village Centre.
Almost £3m of savings will be implemented this year, having previously been agreed when the council set a three year budget in 2017.
Despite facing new budget pressures in 2018/19, the council does not need to find any additional savings in order to deliver a balanced budget. This is due to the council increasing its Council Tax base through its positive economic growth strategies.
In order to help fund those new investments and protect key services, Council Tax will be increased by 2.99%, in addition to the specific Adult Social Care precept of 3% to support vulnerable adults in Knowsley.
Councillors approved the council’s Annual Pay Policy which includes an increase in the level of Living Wage paid to the authority’s lowest-paid staff.
It means staff affected will see their hourly rate increase by 3.5%, from £8.45 per hour to £8.75 per hour from 1 April 2018. That is a higher rate than the Government’s National Living Wage, which currently stands at £7.50 per hour.
Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Gary See, said:
This balanced budget will protect essential council services and invest in key priority areas to support our local communities across the borough.
I’m pleased that our long-term planning and positive approach to encouraging economic growth in Knowsley means we don’t need to find further savings on top of those we already agreed last year.
We remain the hardest hit local authority in the country under this Government’s drastic cuts. By 2020, we will have lost 50% of our funding, a third of our workforce, half of our senior managers and made £100m of savings.
Despite that, we have demonstrated careful financial management to grow our local economy and protect services for our residents and businesses. As a result, the Knowsley economy has grown on average by 5.8% each year since 2010 and, over the last four years, the number of businesses in the borough has grown by a third, with 6,000 new jobs created.
These are genuine achievements in the face of savage Government cuts. This budget shows our ambition and determination to invest in our communities, regenerate our town centres and support the people of Knowsley.