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Flintshire protects front-line services for another year

Published: 10/02/2017

Flintshire County Council will meet next Tuesday to finalise its annual budget for 2017/18. The total savings target for the Council to achieve for 2017/18 had stood at £12.5m following the publication of the draft Welsh Government ‘settlement’, or budget for local government, and prior to the Christmas break. The Council has been approving its annual budget in stages in the build up to next week’s final budget setting meeting. The first stage was the approval of the budget proposals for services in mid-November, followed by the second stage approval of the corporate financing options in early December. At the end of these two stages, the Council has approved a running total of savings of £10.4m - with a remaining gap of £1.997m still to be found to reach its target. Flintshire has long campaigned for increased investment in Social Care. The Welsh Government, following lobbying, has announced extra funding of £10m was to support the rising costs of domiciliary care across Wales. Flintshire expects to receive around £0.430m. The Welsh Government, in finalising its budgets for 2017/18, has recently confirmed that the charging cap limit for domiciliary care will be raised from £60 to £70 per week from 1 April 2017. For Flintshire, this will mean that we can recover additional annual income of £0.238m from clients where they can afford to pay. With the combined income from charging for domiciliary care and the share in the new grant, the remaining gap to be found had been reduced by £0.668m to £1.329m. However, the Council has then had to add the increase in the annual levy charged by the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority to its budget target. Flintshire will have to meet an annual increase in its contribution to Fire and Rescue of £0.317m – a 4.52% rise. Taking this cost pressure into account, the gap remaining in the budget stands at £1.646m. The Council has to agree how to close this gap on Tuesday. The Leader of the Council, Councillor Aaron Shotton, said: “With pressures upon local government budgets increasing year on year, the Council has been faced with an unprecedented challenge to continue in our mission to protect frontline services, whilst also seeking to provide a balanced budget, which we are legally duty bound to do. “Despite the fiscal challenge, I am pleased that we are proposing to increase schools funding by £1.2m. Social care budgets will be both protected and increased by £3.265m to meet the ‘double challenge’ of the rises in demand for services and the inflationary pressure care providers are facing to continue to provide critical care services across our County. Chief Executive, Colin Everett, said: “We have again managed to protect key public services for another year and have avoided making big rises in the charges made for some services. “We have worked through all of our budget options and the Council only has two choices left to balance the budget – Council Tax and drawing on reserves and balances. We are trying to limit the increase in Council Tax to around 3%. Reserves and balances can only be used once and would have to be made good in future years. They can only be a ‘sticking plaster’ on the budget and we have been running down our reserves in recent years.”