Manchester City Council’s Executive will consider revised budget proposals when it meets on Wednesday 15 February 2023.
The Council’s immediate financial position for 2023/24 and 2024/25 has improved relative to forecasts due to a somewhat better than feared funding settlement from the Government and changes to Council Tax rules which mean we are expected to raise more funding than was previously anticipated.
However, while the revised finance settlement gives some breathing space it also pushes the risk back to 2025/26 after which steep funding cuts and a greater budget shortfall – requiring more difficult decisions around savings – are looming.
Revised and reduced savings proposals
So while the Council has been able to reduce some proposed savings in the immediate term, it is also planning ahead to ensure services are on the most solid footing to cope with challenges from 2025/26 onwards.
The Council has been able to review proposed savings and bring forward £6.1m fewer than had originally been envisaged - £36.2m over three years rather than £42.3m - to balance the budget. £15.3m of those savings will be realised in 2023/24.
Examples of options that will NOT now be brought forward include temporarily reducing roadside gully cleaning, reducing the opening hours of Manchester Art Gallery by a day a week, charging for replacement recycling bins and a 10% increase in bereavement services fees and charges.
The eased position in the short term also enables the Council to make targeted investments to support those who are most in need and to invest in putting key services in a more sustainable position for challenges ahead.
The Government’s funding settlement calculations assume that local authorities, such as Manchester City Council, which have social care responsibilities will increase Council Tax by the maximum amount now allowed without the requirement for a local referendum – 4.99%, consisting of a 2.99% general precept increase plus a 2% precept towards adult social care costs. This is 2% more than originally proposed but the extra funding raised, around £4m, would be directed at helping those who need it most. For this reason, and to ensure that Council resources are in the best position to cope with future pressures, it is being proposed to take the combined 4.99% increase.
Cost of Living Crisis support
The budget already included £3.5m investment in targeted support for the most vulnerable residents and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to boost their work helping Manchester people who are struggling during the cost of living crisis.
Now an extra £2m of investment is being proposed on top of that to provide extra targeted support, especially for those suffering hardship.
Under the proposals there would be further funding to voluntary and community groups providing community hubs, good neighbours group and other support across the city.
There would also be new support, in addition to existing welfare provision schemes, to help anyone struggling with outstanding Council Tax debts. This is in addition to the Council Tax Support scheme which gives tens of thousands of the lowest paid Manchester people assistance with their bills.
The extra funding through the adult social care precept will be used to increase support for the social care sector, also helping relieve some of the well-documented pressures on the NHS.
Extra investment in services
The proposed budget includes a £4m increase in the homelessness service budget to help manage pressures and give breathing space for savings from increased prevention and reduced use of temporary accommodation to be realised and £3.3m investment in children’s services to invest in prevention and help with higher placement costs.
An extra £1.5m funding for cleaning and managing the city and a £700,000 fund for small but urgent improvements around the city, for example fixing broken swings or replacing litter bins, are also proposed.
Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said:
“This is a proposed budget which puts Manchester people at its heart and is about both protecting them from the worst impacts of the cost of living crisis now but also taking a long term view which helps the city and its residents to thrive.
“It bears repeating that Manchester has been one of the places hardest hit by more than a decade of austerity and that since 2010 we have had to make more than £428m of savings to cope with Government funding cuts and unfunded pressures such as inflation and population growth.
“Despite this, we are continuing to move forwards as a cleaner, greener, more liveable and fairer city. We have bold ambitions but we don’t forget the importance of getting the basics right and working with our communities to ensure they can share in the city’s success.”
Cllr Rabnawaz Akbar, Executive Member for Finance, said:
“We recognise that times are hard for many people. The Government are effectively forcing us to increase our share of Council Tax by 4.99% by moving the goalposts on Council Tax but we are determined to ensure that we produce a budget which gives a helping hand to those who need it the most while continuing to invest in the future of the city and sustaining the services which everybody relies on.”
A consultation on the proposed Council Tax increase is open until Tuesday 7 February at www.manchester.gov.uk/budget and its provisional results will be reported to and considered by the Executive with further consideration of final results at Budget Scrutiny on 27 February.
The final budget will be agreed at full council on Friday 3 March 2023.