Warwickshire County Council’s Conservative Group are pleased to set out their 2019/20 budget proposals. At a time of financial challenges for local government generally, this budget represents the final year of our 3 year financial plan. In 2017, we identified a requirement for savings of £67 million over the period. We have achieved 90% of our savings to date and continue to deliver high quality services for the people and communities of Warwickshire.
Our overriding strategy has been twofold; ‘To grow the economy and look after the most vulnerable in our communities.’ The economy is strong and growing with Warwickshire identified as the fastest growth area in the country. Unemployment has reached 1.8%, half the national average. Growth has helped us to increase our tax base and together with some extra temporary funding from Central Government, it means we are able to invest in services
in a way that will have a lasting and positive impact on the communities, people and businesses of Warwickshire. It has also allowed us to remove some of the most difficult savings we were planning to make.
Our need to reinvest in services that are facing particularly difficult savings and increased demand requires us to raise Council Tax by 3% and the Adult Social Care precept by 2%. We will be investing as follows:
- Across the country, specialist services for children have seen a huge increase in demand. Warwickshire is no exception. We will invest an additional £6 million in children’s social care and a further £6 million to manage the demand pressures on our education services in relation to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
- We will support our recently published Education Strategy by investing £200,000 to roll out the implementation plan. Supporting young people in education and requiring schools to help every child to achieve their best potential.
- We will invest an additional £5 million to protect the growing number of elderly citizens and vulnerable adults and manage winter pressures, whilst still continuing to make progress on our vision of greater integration between health and social care, especially in this Year of Wellbeing.
- Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service has been rated GOOD through its recent inspection. We know that our Firefighters deliver great services to the people of Warwickshire and so we will reduce the savings required from the service by 60%, phase the delivery over two years and retain the second tenders at both Coleshill and Stratford so they are available into the future for the growing populations they serve.
- Warwickshire Youth Justice Services has been a beacon that we are proud of and they have just had an Inspection rating the service GOOD with outstanding areas. To maintain this quality service, we will not take any further savings and instead any efficiencies delivered will be reinvested back into the service.
- Our Conservative ambition has been to help people to live the lives they want to lead, by listening to their needs and targeting support. This means building communities to be resilient and helping people to have choices. We will be investing £2 million in Community Capacity, Independence and Prevention. We will be looking to fund projects that will support our care leavers, tackle the challenges of mental ill-health and build capacity by actively exploring, with partners, opportunities to help communities to be supportive of those that are vulnerable.
- Last year, the Conservative budget invested in the Homelessness Project. Jointly working with the Third Sector, Police and District/Borough Councils we have begun to make progress on what is a complex issue. We have therefore decided to continue this programme for a further two years with £300,000.
- As a large rural County, we have seen pressure on public transport over the last year. We will be seeking to invest in community transport and work alongside commercial providers to support those living in isolation and loneliness, to live well and be supported. We will make £500,000 available for investment as alternative, viable schemes are identified.
- We will invest £400,000 in our waste management service to meet the increased demand as a result of housing growth and reduce the savings the service was expected to deliver by the same amount.
- To support our Districts and Boroughs at a time of great growth in our local economy, we will invest a further £200,000 to expand our transport planning capacity.
- Warwickshire County Council will be an important partner in the 2021 City of Culture in Coventry. Our market towns and historic areas will play a key part in the run up to, and during the year itself. It is vital that we are ready and so we will be investing £1 million to ensure that Warwickshire helps to develop activities and legacies that will benefit our region and our communities for many years to come.
- We will increase the Capital Investment Fund by £12.5 million. This will allow further investment in projects to stimulate the economy and keep our communities safe. Our priorities will be road projects where safety is an issue, new technology into gritter lorries, mobile compactors for the household waste recycling centres and cycle routes.
All this is possible without materially depleting our reserves. The Conservative Administration has carefully managed the financial position of the County at a time when other councils have found themselves in financial trouble. We continue to deliver good services with high satisfaction ratings. This puts Warwickshire County Council into a strong position to meet the challenges of the next 5 years.