Nottingham City Council has passed a balanced budget. This is a legal requirement but it is made more difficult each year after more than a decade of Tory cuts. We have a Prime Minister who has boasted about taking money from places like ours: ‘We inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone. I started the work of undoing that’.
And that has happened under the Tories. Revenue Support Grant was cut from £126.8m a decade ago to £26.7m last year. This is the equivalent of £694 lost for every household in Nottingham – and £945 in real terms. This has been coupled with rampant inflation and rising costs of energy, good and contracts – partially due to the budget under the doomed leadership of Liz Truss. All of this is happening at a time when demand for services such as Housing Aid or social care is increasing.
Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix adult social care once and for all’ with a plan he had prepared, but he hasn’t fixed it once and for all – he hasn’t fixed it at all. The Prime Minister’s deliberate strategy of taking money from Nottingham, and Johnson’s unsurprising failure to make good on his promise have landed further burdens on Nottingham people.
These same factors have made it hard for all councils to come to a balanced budget. In Birmingham and Edinburgh there were gaps of £80 million to overcome. In the Conservative-controlled Kent County Council it was £50 million, while it was £34.8 million rising to £73.8 over three years for our closest neighbours in Nottinghamshire.
Nottingham was not alone in having to close a large gap. Whilst we have had to make difficult decisions we have worked to protect what Nottingham needs and values and have remained ambitious for our city and the people of Nottingham. Our budget backs the people of Nottingham and positions Nottingham as a city fit for the future.
It was disappointing to see that the opposition did not put forward a credible budget amendment – or indeed, one with numbers. The joint Conservative and Independents’ amendment showed the true colours of the Independents, and the lack of attention to detail of both groups.
Like nearly every council across the country we have had to raise council tax, but for average paid, we are amongst the lowest charging councils – the 45th lowest of 309 councils in the country. For 80% of Nottingham, the most they will pay extra is £1.46 a week, and we encourage people to see whether they are eligible for the council tax reduction scheme, for which £27.8 million has been allocated. We know that any rise, even below inflation is difficult, but like councils across England, we have been forced by the choices government has made to take this course to continue to provide the outstanding services that the people of Nottingham deserve.
Services like our outstanding council run care homes, supporting Nottingham residents when they most need it.
Services like our Libraries, which we have maintained while building a new library in Sherwood and continuing work on the central Library which will open this year and will provide a leading children library for the youngest residents in our city.
Nottingham people have a public transport network that is the envy of other cities, where we can expect to be within a short walk of a regular bus or tram service, and we go above and beyond on concessionary passes in our city. Our Carbon Neutral approach addresses both the climate crisis, and the holes in household budgets, with our pioneering work in energy saving, our outstanding public transport and our CN28 targets that place Nottingham as a pioneering council that other authorities wish to learn from.
We have worked hard to maintain and improve these services while still having a balanced budget. Nottingham is a great place to grow up and grow old in, thanks to the work we have done and will continue to do. We also promise Nottingham people that we will work for a Labour government that will deliver what Nottingham people need. May’s local elections are our next opportunity to send a message to this government through the ballot box – and to elect Labour councillors who continue to work hard for what Nottingham needs now and in the future.