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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Securing Our Finances and Building for the Future

Thursday, 25 February 2021

On Tuesday evening we held one of the most important meetings on Tameside’s calendar, as the Full Council came together over Zoom to debate and decide on the Budget for the next financial year.

This meeting was held at a critical moment for Tameside and the country as a whole. The government has begun, after a long wait, to set out a plan on how we will be able to move out of lockdown. While are still working through the details of the announcement to understand how best we can support our communities through the transition, I am pleased that we are now able to look towards the future with optimism again. However, I remain deeply concerned that the government has underestimated the long-term effects this pandemic will have on places like Tameside. Over 600 of our residents have been lost to coronavirus, and cost pressures from the pandemic exacerbated by a decade of austerity means that our budget gap has increased to £23 million.

 

 
It therefore gives me no pleasure to say that, at a time when concrete action on fair funding is needed more than ever, the promise made by the government back in March last year that we would be given “whatever it takes” has proven to be hollow words. The new Funding Settlement, which determines how much money we receive from the government each year was also an exercise in smoke and mirrors. While on paper it promises a £2.2 billion increase in core funding only £0.3 billion of this, or less than 14%, comes directly from central funding.  The remainder comes from the assumption that councils will make full use of their allowable council tax increase for this year.
 
That means that it is more important than ever that we are honest with our residents about the financial challenges we face, and what it means for them and the services many of them depend upon. As well £9 million of cuts on top of our existing savings, increasing to £14 million next year, the Budget also mandates a council tax increase this year of 1.99% and an increase in the adult social care precept of 3%. This is a choice we would much rather have not had to make, but the financial challenges from coronavirus and the betrayal of fair funding promises means that we are not the only local authority that that have had to make it.
 

 
While we may not have much control over the financial decisions made by the government, we do have the opportunity to make our own choices on investment and development within Tameside. That’s why, as well as the Budget, Tuesday’s meeting also focused on how we’re beginning to build back fairer and greener. Working in close consultation with residents and partners, we are in the process of finalising our Inclusive Growth Strategy for 2021-26. This document will form the roadmap for our ambitions for Tameside, and includes key priorities such as the regeneration of our town centres and major investments in homes, businesses and infrastructure in Godley Green and Ashton Moss. It was also agreed that joint committees would be set up to work with the relevant Greater Manchester councils to both build on the former GM Spatial Framework create a new and long-term plan for development and sustainable growth for all, and to advance to the next stage of the GM Clean Air Plan to protect our shared environment. 

With this commitment financial sustainability on one side, and inclusive growth on the other, I believe that we have produced a Budget that both manages the financial challenges we face, while simultaneously laying the foundations for a better future. We will also continue to demand that the government make good on their promise of fair funding for all. It is true that much has been lost over the past year, but if we come together with a new vision of what is possible I truly believe that there is much more that can be gained.



 

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