The protection of vulnerable children and adults in Calderdale takes centre stage as the Cabinet outlines its budget priorities for the upcoming financial year. The Leader of the Council unveiled the budget proposals during a Cabinet meeting on January 15, 2024, commencing a period of public consultation.

Ensuring a balanced budget is a legal obligation for the Council each year. However, the current financial forecasts present a daunting picture, with projected deficits of £7.5 million in 2024/5, £6.2 million in 2025/6, and £4.8 million in 2026/27. These estimates consider various factors, including increased contract costs, income reductions due to the cost-of-living crisis, provisions for pay inflation, and lingering impacts on energy costs.

Children’s and adults’ social care is set to receive additional investment in response to escalating costs and rising demand. The uncertainty surrounding future funding, beyond the Chancellor’s Spending Review ending in 2024/25, adds complexity to the financial outlook for local government.

Despite already achieving savings of £120 million by 2023/24 compared to its 2010 budget, the Council faces unprecedented challenges.

Cllr Jane Scullion, Leader of Calderdale Council said:

“These are extremely challenging times and unfortunately, we are now faced with some very difficult choices. Calderdale has a proud record of robust financial management, and we will not put that reputation at risk.

“Our priority is to set a sustainable budget, for this and subsequent years. We must be able to continue to balance the books.

“Over recent years we have tried to do ‘more with less’ but this is not sustainable and inevitably we must now look at reducing services which we are not legally required to provide.

“Like all councils Calderdale must by law provide certain services such as social care and refuse collections, whereas many other services whilst important, are optional. To protect our most critical services we have no choice but to make some tough decisions.”

The proposed budget outlines potential savings in various services, prioritizing the protection of critical services while acknowledging the inevitability of reducing non-essential services. To mitigate community impact, the Council aims to keep decision-making local, meet legal obligations, reduce inequality, enhance quality of life, ensure safety, protect services where possible, focus on climate change initiatives, attract investment, and maintain transparency about achievable goals.

In an effort to safeguard public services, the proposed budget includes a 4.99% increase in Council Tax. This comprises a 2.99% increase within the Government-set limit and an additional 2% Social Care Precept to support vulnerable adults and children.

The Cabinet’s proposed budget savings encompass various measures, such as savings from festive lighting, charges for care services in Heatherstones, reduction in youth services, decreased spending on external contracts, a permit scheme for household waste centres, and the closure of Elland household waste recycling centre.

There will be an opportunity for residents and businesses to ask questions about the Cabinet’s proposals during an online live Q&A session at 7pm on Thursday 1 February 2024. https://youtube.com/live/FZHbOjMsXDo?feature=share

People can have their say by completing the online survey: https://new.calderdale.gov.uk/council/budgets-and-spending/cabinets-budget-proposals

Alternatively, for those unable to access the web form, feedback can also be returned by downloading the form available at https://new.calderdale.gov.uk/council/budgets-and-spending/cabinets-budget-proposals