Torbay Council’s Partnership Cabinet has now published its revenue and capital budget proposals for 2023/24 and wants to hear your views.

For the fourth year in a row, the Government has only given a one-year Local Government Finance Settlement, making it difficult to make long-term financial plans. Whilst there are no hard cash cuts in the settlement, increasing costs and service demands continue to rise, so there is a real term cut in our funding.

Across the Council we have £8m inflationary pressures. This includes increasing costs for adult social care, rising costs of placements for children who need them and a huge increase in our electricity bill. Energy costs have gone up by more than £1m with over half of that for street lighting.

Our Revenue Support Grant was £42million in 2013/14, falling to less than £8million in 2023/24 with two thirds of our total revenue budget invested in delivering adult social care and children’s services to help the most vulnerable in the Bay.

To create a safer and stronger Torbay and to ensure communities thrive, the Partnership Administration is looking to invest in priority areas in 2023/24. These include:

  • £5.25m of council funding and central government grants to support Torbay households with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Utilising the social care grant to support pressures in both adults and children’s services.
  • £1000 thank you payment to foster carers.
  • Further £25,000 investment in sport through Torbay on the Move, which is on top of the £50,000 already provided.
  • A further one-off investment of £100,000 towards our ambition of becoming the UK’s Premier resort.
  • £50,000 to help improve skills.
  • Continuing the live streaming of Council meetings.
  • £72,000 in the grass roots Community Ward Fund for a third year.

Proposals also include:

  • Increasing income where possible, such as through an improved offer at Torre Abbey and events at Torquay seafront.
  • Reducing the Council’s carbon emissions and increasing recycling rates to reduce associated costs.

The Capital plan includes:

  • £110 million of capital works programmed for 2023/24.
  • Additional secondary school placements at St Cuthbert Mayne School.
  • Extra care housing at Crossways and Torre Marine.
  • Temporary accommodation.
  • Investment in Edginswell Business Park, Town Deal and Future High Streets projects.
  • Carbon neutral initiatives.

Increasing costs of social care (which in part have been recognised by Government) continue to have the greatest impact on budgets. Delays in the adult social care reforms mean that grant funding and the adult social care precept is being relied on to fund adult social care which helps support a safer NHS by relieving some of the pressures.

The continuous improvement journey within Children’s Services, which saw an Ofsted rating of ‘Good’ being achieved in 2022, remains crucial to our medium-term financial stability. Current financial pressures in the service are largely due to external forces, such as the cost and accessibility of placements for vulnerable children. Considerable work is being done though prevention and innovation to ensure young people remain safe in the area that they grew up in, with a supportive network around them.

Effective financial management and investment in previous years has helped alleviate some of the financial pressures.

Over £1m of previous investments into new technology and equipment for SWISCo, is now improving how the company operates meaning services are being delivered more efficiently at a lower cost. For example, the introduction of the green waste collections is increasing Torbay’s recycling rate, reducing the cost of disposing residual waste. Investing in new vehicles means less is spent repairing them and they can do their job more effectively. Using wildflowers in seasonal planting reduces costs and benefits wildlife. These efficiencies means that in 2023/24 we can reduce the contract fee to SWISCo £250,000.

The changes we are making are also working alongside our Climate Action Plans to create a fairer deal for our Environment.

However, the cost-of-living crisis, which is affecting all households, is also having a significant impact on the Council as a whole. The cost of services which all Torbay residents benefit from on a day-to-day basis continue to increase, but with no additional Government funding, Council Tax income is our only source of additional funding.

In response to these pressures, and to ensure we can continue to deliver services in the future, Cabinet (like many other Councils across the UK) is looking to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount of 2.99%, with an additional 2% increase for the adult social care precept. This isn’t a decision that has been taken lightly, but due to a lack of appropriate grant funding we very limited options to ensure people are looked after and services can be delivered. Each 1% increase in Council Tax generates £750,000 of income and supports baseline budgets, so avoidable savings don’t have to be found in future years.

Cabinet recognises the impact this extra cost may have on households so is proposing to invest over £5million of council funding and central government grants into the Torbay Support Scheme to help create stronger communities. This includes one initiative where each working age claimant of Council Tax Support will receive a one-off payment of £100. This would be on top of the discount already applied from the Council Tax Support Scheme and will be automatically applied to Council Tax bills – meaning there will be no application process.

Cllr Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council, said; “We will continue to lobby for a fairer deal for Torbay along with other local authorities so we can build a stronger economy and create safer environments for vulnerable adults and children. In the meantime, we continue to tackle the challenges head on and put people at the heart of our budget proposals.

“Last year we faced financial challenges owing to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year we are faced with further pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis which is affecting us all. Where we can, we will help to ease the financial burden that many households are facing whilst delivering services to our communities.”

Cllr Darren Cowell, Deputy Leader of Torbay Council, said; “Over the past 4-years we have made significant investments, efficiencies, and improvements to many Council services to help create safer streets and a stronger economy which will help to strengthen our communities. We are starting to see the benefits of these decisions, with more to come over the next financial year.

“It is never an easy decision to increase Council Tax for households, especially those who are already struggling. But due to rising costs and demands and real term cut in the Government grant we don’t have enough funding to pay for key services. We have been left with little choice – especially as we want and need to effectively deliver a range of core services that benefit everyone in Torbay.”

The budget proposals are now available on our budget webpage. 

View the budget proposals.  

The consultation will run from 11 January until 12 February.

Have your say on the budget proposals. 

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