The Labour Group and the Leader of the Council gave
me political responsibility for the council’s finances less than 10 months ago.
I feel fortunate to have reached this milestone,
delivering my first council budget today, a milestone that Sajid Javid didn’t
manage to make. Just 10 short months, but already onto my 3rd Chancelllor of
the Exchequer. It has indeed been a time of considerable political change and
Our residents went to the polls in May last year and
returned 50 Labour Councillors. They again went to the polls in December and
all Nottingham City constituencies returned Labour Members of Parliament.
I know that I speak for my colleagues when I say that
representing our residents interests is always our top priority.
For Nottingham this is a time of great challenges.
I’m going to set out those challenges and explain what the council is doing to
After a decade of Government austerity, 10 years of
Government funding cuts those challenges have become increasingly difficult to
navigate, balancing a number of competing priorities.
Chronic underfunding of local services by the
Government over such a prolonged period of time has consequences. It’s caused
social and economic issues that in my view were and are unnecessary. Social and
economic issues that in the medium to long term will cost the public purse
more. The recent updated Marmot Review highlighted for instance that, and I
quote ‘the amount of time people spend in poor health has increased
across England since 2010. inequalities in poor health harm individuals,
families, communities and are expensive to the public purse. They are also
unnecessary and can be reduced with the right policies.’
Austerity has impacted the poorest people, hardest
and that’s wrong.
Let’s just remember what’s happened over the lost
decade of austerity, the decade of low growth, the decade of stagnant wages,
the decade of underinvestment, the decade of increasing child poverty, the
decade of school cuts.
Let’s remember that Nottingham has been in the
Conservative Government’s firing line throughout and let’s also remember that
this is not a new Government, it’s Michael Gove, it’s Liz Truss, it’s Grant
Schapps, it’s Boris Johnson. These people have been in Government for years and
years. They are austerity.
Since 2010 Government has consistently cut the
funding for Nottingham’s public services. Nottingham now receives over
£100million less in Government funding per year than it did. £100million
less every year to fund libraries, parks, public toilets, the local road
network, public transport, youth centres, street cleaning, trading standards,
environmental health, drug and alcohol services. We’re a hundred million pounds
a year down on the resources we can put in to tackling anti social behaviour,
supporting the homeless and looking after our most vulnerable residents.
Over £100million less each and every year.
£529 per Nottingham household cut.
Since 2012 this council has had to make savings of
over £270 million pounds.
It’s this Government’s attack on Nottingham’s
households that’s led to a gap in the council’s budget yet again for the next
financial year to the tune of £15.6million.
After a huge amount of work by my colleague Portfolio
Holders and Council Officers I’m able to set out budget proposals today to
close this gap and deliver a balanced budget for the next financial year.
We have significant additional demands in our children’s
services department. Like many councils up and down the country, but especially
in big cities, urban areas and areas with higher than average levels of
deprivation we have growing demand in children’s services. More vulnerable
children have been brought into the care of the council and other additional
costs associated with protecting children means that we’re putting more money
into those services next year.
Almost all councils are currently spending more on
children’s services than they had budgeted for and therefore are having to
allocate additional resources.
We’re also putting more money into care services for
elderly people in recognition of a growing number of people requiring council
These two areas of spending – looking after the care
needs of older residents and protecting vulnerable children are now by far the
biggest areas of spend for the council.
It’s now urgent that Government brings forward
proposals to deal with the growing funding gap that councils face. As demand
for care services continues to rise the Local Government Association has warned
of a funding gap of £6.4 billion by 2024. After many years of promises from
Government to bring forward new policy proposals to fund care services for
elderly and vulnerable people it seems that realistically we are nowhere near a
solution. Successive governments have failed to deal with this fundamental
It is the growing demand for children’s and adults
services, the government’s failure to lead and the chronic underfunding of
these services that is driving instability in the finances of councils across
Remember that these are literally life or death
services for many of our residents, they are vitally important, but trying to
fund them from council tax and the half of business rates that Government
allows us to retain locally is unsustainable and unfair.
We have no choice therefore, but to apply the
Government’s adult social care precept to council tax bills yet again. The
Government expects us to apply this additional 2% on to council tax bills.
The Governments adult social care precept has now
added £160 to an average council tax bill in Nottingham.
And it’s just about the worst way to fund these key
services. Council tax isn’t based on ability to pay, its regressive so that
poorer households pay proportionally more than wealthy households and it embeds
inequality and unfairness regionally and nationally with councils in the
poorest parts of the country able to raise the least new income.
When you consider that 1% added to council tax bills
in Richmond will translate to over £6 per person in new income for their
council, yet here in Nottingham a 1% increase in council tax raises around half
that level of new income to fund local services.
Which area do you think has greater demand on its
children’s and adult care services?
Not only is this a government stealth tax, it’s an
unfair tax that does nothing to level up, in fact it does the opposite.
Let me be clear – The council tax rises proposed in
this budget are a result of Government funding cuts. I will continue to inform
the Government of my belief that council tax is no way to fund care services
for older people.
I need to point out further unfairness of the
Government’s approach and I highlighted these points to the new Chancellor in a
letter I recently sent to him. In anticipation of his first budget on Wednesday
I urged him to change course and end the unfairness, because while Nottingham
has faced relentless funding cuts some of the wealthiest parts of the country
have received additional funding.
The attack on Nottingham to the tune of a £529 cut
per household can be shockingly compared to a £19 increase in funding per
household in Surrey for example. This must end. The Government’s funding
formula, if unchanged, is expected to slash another £14 million from
Nottingham, yet Surrey, one of the wealthiest parts of the country is set to
receive an additional £26million.
And not just Nottingham – residents in Nottingham
would be rightly angry. As angry as residents in Durham – set to lose over £10
million, Dewsbury, set to lose another £6million and Doncaster set to lose
another £5 million. Some of the poorest parts of the country set to be targeted
My message to the Government is clear – stop your
attack on Nottingham, stop your attack on Nottingham households and stop your
unfair funding regime.
I sincerely hope the new Chancellor changes course on
Wednesday. The people of Nottingham will be watching.
So our challenges are significant, but we’ve done a
lot to meet these challenges. In many ways I’m proud of the way the council,our
partner organisations and our communities have responded. There has been damage
done by Government policy, but also great resilience in our city.
Whatever Conservative Governments throw at
Nottingham, we will succeed, but we won’t forget.
In our budget proposals today we’ve worked hard to
protect vital, front line services, to protect those services upon which our
most vulnerable residents rely, with our dedicated council officers we’ve been
innovative to bring in grant funding, to grow commercial income, to further
embrace new technology and be as efficient as possible whilst demanding high
standards of our services.
Despite the challenges we’re doing so much. We have
an ambitious agenda, we’re still investing in Nottingham’s future, we’re
confident in Nottingham and in Nottingham people, we’re helping to create new
jobs, delivering the biggest regeneration programme for decades and growing the
Each of my colleagues on the Executive and our
assistant portfolio holders could point to excellent work happening in the
council and I know that all of my colleague Councillors could demonstrate the
positive work happening in their communities.
When I see thousands of Nottingham children receiving
a free book direct to their home every month, when I see that we’re a child
friendly city, when I see that we’re working towards being the first city in
the country to be carbon neutral, to improve health with the cleanest city air,
to build the best children’s library in the country, those things give me great
hope for our future.
And all of those things that we can do as a council
when combined with the resilience in our communities, the positive work of our
partner organisations, our voluntary sector, the diversity of the city and our
history of innovation and creativity I know that despite being held back by
this Government, Nottingham will continue to progress.
And because we are a progressive city, we are an
inclusive city we will meet these challenges together.
Lord Mayor I move the report.
Councillor Sam Webster
Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and City Centre
Nottingham City Council