Knowsley Council’s Cabinet met on Wednesday, 12 February 2020, to consider its proposals for next year’s budget (2020/21).
Following a review of spending and funding estimates, the Cabinet agreed to work up an investment package totalling £14m – the package will then be considered at a full Council meeting on 4 March 2020. As the future of Government funding levels for local authorities continues to be uncertain, the package will need to be focussed on one-off projects and the Cabinet will ensure that investment is used to have the biggest impact for the benefit of Knowsley’s residents, businesses, and visitors.
Despite the Government’s statement that “austerity is over”, future years’ funding levels remain very uncertain due to upcoming changes to Government Grant funding.
The Cabinet has agreed to recommend an increase in Council Tax by 3.99%. The Council Tax increase will be used to fund the continuation of essential services which residents value and need.
The Government has set an expectation that local authorities across the country will increase Council Tax by 2% plus an Adult Social Care precept, and has reduced the money given to local authorities on the basis that such Council Tax increases will be applied. In Knowsley’s case, this means an expected increase of 3.99%, which is in line with the Cabinet’s recommendation.
Councillor Jayne Aston, Resources Cabinet Member, said: “Our positive position is not by chance. It is a result of the Council’s proactive approach to inclusive growth, new houses, new businesses, and new jobs. It is a result of our strong financial management and our ability to make difficult decisions and implement them.
“Knowsley Council has been the worst affected in the country in terms of central Government funding cuts. Over the last ten years, we have had to find £100m of savings. Three years ago, all of our services and our staff were reviewed to identify where savings could be made. Not only did we identify savings, but we have now implemented them.
“This has been a huge challenge for us, particularly at a time when demands for our services are increasing and resources are reducing, but as you know, we rise to a challenge and we have delivered what we said we would do.
“At the same time as investing in our key services, we will be recommending an increase in Council Tax. If we do not pass on the Government’s recommended increase of 3.99%, we will once again be in a position of having to cut key services. After 10 years of austerity, enough is enough.
“The position in future years is very uncertain as the Government is changing the way it funds local government. If we are treated as badly as we were over the last 10 years, it will be an almighty struggle to continue to provide services. We will be lobbying hard to make sure Knowsley gets a fair deal.
“Overall, I’m pleased to be in a position where are at last able to invest once again in key services and projects that will really benefit Knowsley. The detailed investment package will be considered at Council but the investments will link to key priority areas which are protecting vulnerable residents, tackling Climate Change, improving the borough’s environment, delivering vibrant town centres, driving our inclusive growth and sustaining and transforming key services.
“I look forward to agreeing our investment package with colleagues next month.”