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Nottingham Labour

Nottingham Labour refuses to recommend budget cuts

Nottingham Labour has refused to recommend a report which proposes budget cuts across the city. Members of the Nottingham City Council Executive said they could not recommend the budget report for approval to go forward to the formal budget-setting meeting at Full Council on 4 March.

City Council officers brought forward savings proposals of more than £20m to a meeting of the Executive Board on Tuesday 13 February. These include reducing library provision, fewer Community Protection Officers and a cut in grants to the voluntary sector – which have been put forward by officers in a bid to fill the predicted budget gap of £60 million for 2024/25.

Councillors have a legal obligation to set a balanced budget. In previous years, the majority group of Labour members has worked with officers to help shape proposals to minimise the impact on city residents.

However, a recent directive from the government-appointed Improvement and Assurance Board (IAB) has instructed officers to bring forward all proposals that reduce services to their statutory minimum – without the need to factor in any comments from councillors or feedback from the recent public consultation on the budget.

Before the IAB instruction was issued in January, councillors were working with officers to try to set a balanced budget for 2024/25.

Legally setting a balanced budget has always been challenging – but Nottingham Labour has acted in good faith and in the best interests of the citizens we represent over the years.

The blame for this does not lie with our council officers who have been asked to bring forward as many proposals as possible to make savings to fill our budget gap. The blame lies with the Conservative Government.

Over the past ten years, we have received £100 million less each year in real terms than we did before 2013, representing a loss of a billion pounds. That is £694 less funding per resident each year. Councils cannot cope with an increase in demand coupled to a decrease in funding.

This situation has been made worse by the disastrous Liz Truss minibudget which wrecked an already weak economy. By putting forward £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts, which would have disproportionately favoured richer households, inflation surged to over 10.6% and people’s mortgages went up on average by £500 a month. Everything we pay for is affected by inflation. Higher inflation means higher pay rises which the Government does not fund, meaning local authorities have to find the money from somewhere. It made Government borrowing more expensive meaning there is less funding available for public services.

The main area of soaring costs is in Adults and Children’s services. Rising demand for residential care coupled to a failing marker for provision has caused costs to skyrocket. It is completely unacceptable that there are companies making obscene profits from housing vulnerable children.

Homelessness has also led to further pressures on budgets. The amount of residents in temporary accommodation due to being unable to afford rent has climbed dramatically in the past year. This has been made worse by the government’s decision to free local housing allowance at April 2020 levels. As rents have spiralled, it has made most private rental properties unaffordable to those receiving housing benefit. However, the Government has shown no willingness over the last decade to work towards more social housing, and they have done next to nothing in the short term to tackle soaring homelessness and increased rents.

The Budget paper is published on the Nottingham City Council website here – Agenda for Executive Board on Tuesday, 13th February, 2024, 2.30 pm – Nottingham City Council

Officers will now bring forward the proposals for approval at a formal meeting of Nottingham City Council on Monday 4 March.