Agenda item


This presentation will outline the Council’s strategy to the 2022-23 Budget within the context of the Corporate Plan. The presentation will provide details of the approach to setting the budget for the next financial year and the broad impact this will have on the delivery of services.


Councillor Sanderson, Leader of the Council and Councillor Wearmouth, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services gave a presentation to outline the approach being taken to set the budget for the next financial year, looking at the current position, challenges and opportunities and the impact this would have on the delivery of services.? The detail regarding initiatives and schemes would be presented at a separate meeting.? (A copy of the presentation is enclosed with the signed minutes.)?? 

The presentation highlighted:? 

  • The work of frontline services during the pandemic, and following Storm Arwen, was appreciated and acknowledged with no budget cuts being proposed.? 
  • Health inequalities to be addressed across the county with a summit planned in March 2022 to make meaningful change with partner organisations.? 
  • Unexpectedly, employment rates were largely comparable with pre-pandemic rates at 4.1% which was lower than regional and national figures and the economic performance of the county was quite strong.? Targeted interventions hoped to address areas where unemployment figures were higher, including those within the 18–24-year-olds, areas where there were job vacancies and the necessity of introducing a real living wage in adult social care to retain staff who were leaving for jobs in other sectors.? 
  • The vision and aims of the Corporate Plan identified 48 key priorities with targeted actions to enable their delivery.? Examples included strengthening relationships with town and parish councils, welcoming new businesses, free town centre car parks etc.? 
  • The overall funding context for the 2022/23 budget was set out; the increase in Council Tax precept remained at 2% without holding a referendum with an additional 1% for Adult Social Care for the next three years.? 
  • Areas were outlined where the Council intended to invest in the future of the county.? 
  • A review of the Budget for 2022-23 and the Medium-Term Financial Plan required savings of £9.704 million to balance the budget.? A provisional savings requirement of £28 million had also been calculated for the following two financial years.? The approach to identifying spend and savings within the budget were outlined with proposed savings by Portfolio Holder, although some of these included opportunities for income generation.? 
  • The consultation was due to close on 21 January 2022.? Over 200 responses had been received to date which was helpful when assessing areas which operated well and those that didn’t, as well as suggestions where more funds should be allocated, before the budget was finalised and published ahead of scrutiny and consideration by Full Council on 23 February 2022.? 

The following comments were made in response to member’s questions: 


  • It was suggested that the feedback received from the public could also be shared with members. 
  • There was a public consultation on the Council website and there were over 200 responses. It was acknowledged that face-to-face consultations couldn’t take place due to Covid restrictions but there was a hope in the future that they would return as it was acknowledged how invaluable they were and it was acknowledged the importance of reaching a wider audience. 
  • It was suggested in the Croft ward there needed to be a way to mitigate private landlords as it was felt that until this problem was resolved unemployment would continue. It was acknowledged that the problem needed to be looked at and it was suggested that this would be looked at in the Blyth Town deal and through the Blyth forum. 
  • Members noted that to help with unemployment there had to be motivation and a stimulus to want to work as well as providing good jobs throughout the area. 
  • There were concerns about the services that were already struggling. It was acknowledged that the Council were not losing any frontline staff, however it was felt that in some frontline services more staff were needed. It was confirmed that there would be no compulsory redundancies and there were no plans for reductions in services.  
  • Members noted that on a service-by-service basis if there were posts that were no longer necessary then the service would not fill the vacancies but it would be the Service Manager who agreed this. 
  • It was noted that all questions asked during the Facebook live Q&A session would be collated by the Communications team and all questions would be answered. 
  • Members were assured that there were no plans to introduce fees for carparking near the train stations and the parking situation was to be monitored. It was important to regulate carparks to ensure they do what they’re supposed to do. 
  • Members noted that the Council were investing millions into the local services fleet including more powerful gully emptiers with advanced technology and tarmac technology that would allow for full pothole patching. 
  • The utility bill increase should not have as big of an effect on the budget as expected past and present administrations had implemented work including electricity generation, solar panels etc that had insulated the Authority to some extent. It was acknowledged that there still would be pressures on the budget. The leader had written to Government requesting additional support for schools which should hopefully be achieved. 
  • Members noted that there were no plans to charge parking on beach front carparks. There would be an announcement in the future regarding the funding for the green spaces. It was stated that there were three key areas where there was going to be investment around; supporting industry, encouraging new industry and looking after people. The investment into the green spaces were not going to be at the expense of parking charges. It was noted that public conveniences were also being invested in. 
  • Members noted that the County was in very good shape and looked after very well which is down to joint working with Parish and Town Councils also. 
  • It was acknowledged that there had been issues with road sweepers. Enquiries had been made to hire some and the replacement fleet was due by the end of the month. A weekly report was shared with the local town Councils which showed the distribution of the employees across the area. 
  • It was acknowledged that the green agenda was a big issue the planting trees initiative was to try and involve all residents and make them aware of the green agenda. There would be an update on the Climate Change Action Plan it was hoped the report would go to Cabinet, Council and the Local Area Councils. 
  • Members noted that there was a Government Bill coming shortly which would explain offers that were available to Local Government to increase and improve the recycling rate. The glass collection pilot was being rolled out to more homes and there was a hope to do a food waste pilot in the near future.  
  • Members noted the hard work that the Innovative and Improvement service was doing to help with the Green Agenda and in the future, it could be beneficial to invite the Officers to the Local Area Councils to take questions from the members. 
  • Members noted that a saving in a service did not necessarily mean a cut it could just be that the service had found a way to deliver their service more efficiently. In Adult Social Care this could have been people living at home for longer. It was suggested that if able to attendance at the next budget meeting would allow members to ask Officers more in-depth questions. The budget was created with Service Directors who deliver these services, and they were confident that they would be able to deliver their service without putting pressure on the frontline staff. It was acknowledged the importance of retaining staff in these services and a living wage pay had been recently agreed by Cabinet.  
  • Members felt that Adult Social Care was a national problem and should be dealt with and funded nationally.  
  • It was confirmed that Council Tax would be increased by 2% with additional 1% for Adult Social Care. The way in which it is presented can be amended as long as the breakdown was there.  
  • The trees for the initiative needed to be young ones to help combat the Climate Change. It was acknowledged that storm Arwen had destroyed a large amount of mature trees. 
  • It was confirmed that the slides from the budget meeting would be circulated to members after the meeting. 


RESOLVED that the presentation be received.