Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

A Unanimous Budget for Uncertain Times

Friday, 01 March 2019


This Tuesday evening we gathered together in the familiar surroundings of Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden to discuss and agree the council’s Budget for 2019-20.

My second Budget as Executive Leader of the Council, it has been drawn up in what I can only describe as the most uncertain times for local government in living memory. We already know the damage that eight years of austerity has wrought across the country; where councils once had £1 to spend on services in 2010, they have 40p in 2019. It has also become increasingly clear that the government either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the consequences this has had for people and services. I’m sure I can’t be the only one who noted with astonishment the report released at the beginning of February by the influential and cross-party House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which condemned the government for their unwillingness to “get real, listen fully to the concerns of local government and take a hard look at the real impact funding reductions have on local services”. Their words, not mine.

Our highest priority, as always, remains the protection of our most vulnerable residents and the services that they depend on. While I will always condemn austerity at every turn, it also falls upon us as local authorities to get on with the things we can control while preparing as best we can for the impact of decisions made elsewhere.

The quarter of a million bins we collect every week, the 33,000 visits to our customer services and 179,000 calls we resolve a year, the 1,000 family events we hold across every one of our towns, and the 3,000 elderly or vulnerable residents we help to live with safety and dignity in their own homes. All of this, and much more, must be paid and accounted for. In order to do this in face of cuts and uncertainty our Budget calls for an increase in council tax of 3.99%. This also includes an increase in the precept for adult social care, and amounts to £37.58 a year, or 72p a week, for a Band A property in Tameside. Increases in Greater Manchester levies, which we collect but have no control over, will also add 43p a week to a Band A council tax bill.

We anticipate that this will generate around an additional £3.5 million of extra funding a year. It is not a decision that any of us have taken lightly, but there any certain facts that we cannot hide from. We must set a balanced budget; we must protect our services; and in the absence of a sustainable plan for funding from Whitehall we must do both of those things using our own resources. The Conservative group in the council have seen the same figures as us, which is why to their credit they have also supported this Budget, resulting in it passing unanimously. Even taking this new rise into account, the amount a resident in Tameside can expect to pay in council tax is the fourth lowest out of the ten Greater Manchester local authorities, as well as below the regional and national average. We know, quite rightly, that our residents will expect some kind of return on the additional money they are being asked to pay. That’s why I pledge that every penny will be used to sustain and improve services within Tameside.

Now more than ever, we need to defend and promote the indispensable role that local government plays in our country. This is the message we must send out; to Tameside, to Greater Manchester and to the government. The services local authorities provide help keep people alive, they help to make people’s lives worth living, they are precious beyond measure and they absolutely cannot be taken for granted. Until the government heeds that call, we must use every resource and asset at our disposal to continue delivering what our residents need and expect from us. Despite some hard but necessary decisions, I believe that this new Budget will allow us to do just that.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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