Labour today approved the Budget for 2021-22 and a three year capital strategy ploughing more than £100m into projects across the borough.
The plans will now go to the Full Council meeting next Wednesday, 3rd March for final approval.
The budget for 2021-22 and the three year Financial Plan set out how the council will allocate funds to provide the essential services our communities need – such as social care, maintaining parks, children’s services, bin collections and road maintenance – and how we will use capital funding and prudential borrowing to invest in significant projects.
The budget for 2021/22 will address the way the council can deliver services differently, more collaboration with partners and communities and reviewing existing contracts with providers and income generation like advertising in the borough.
To tackle this pressure among the measures proposed is to apply a three per cent adult social care levy alongside a 1.99 per cent increase on council tax, which would allow an increase of 4.99 per cent without the need for a referendum.
Looking forward the medium-term financial plan puts forward more than £100m in investment through capital spending, which has been identified for a range of community boosting projects. The three-year period of the medium-term financial plan includes £40m funding for redevelopment as part of the first phase of English Cities Fund town centres programme, £1m towards a new bus station, £1m towards a youth zone and £1.2m invested in tackling climate change in the borough.
Those investments sit alongside plans to improve green modes of travel, energy efficient street lighting and sustainable developments.
Council leader Cllr David Baines said: “Setting the budget for 2021-22 and for future years is a huge challenge. In 2010 St Helens received £127m per year in Government funding – now it’s just £12m per year.
Twice in the last year myself and all group leaders, from all local parties, alongside both our MPs, have written to government asking for help. Twice we’ve had no reply.
At the same time as national government have slashed and burned council finances, demand for services locally has increased. In the face of these difficulties we have to take some tough decisions with the revenue budget in order to continue to provide essential services. The vast majority of council revenue spending is towards protecting the most vulnerable children and adults in our communities. Unlike the government, we will not turn our backs and leave them behind. We’re also pushing ahead with plans to modernise the way the council works and delivers services, finding new ways of working and supporting residents and communities together.
The capital strategy – which is funded by money we can’t use for services – is exciting and shows our commitment to transforming the borough. Projects totalling over £100m of investment include more than £4m for the Gamble and Earlestown Town Hall to bring the buildings back into full public use; funding for completely new school buildings at Ashurst Primary School and Penkford; a new St Helens bus station; a Youth Zone; and investment at Sutton Leisure Centre including reopening the swimming pool and creating a new 3G sports pitch.
Alongside our partnership with English Cities Fund and the town deal bid, this is a transformative programme and Labour are determined to fulfil the potential of these schemes and others in our borough.
With our new Borough Strategy on the agenda later today as well (see https://www.sthelenslabour.org/latest-news/2021/02/25/together-2/), we’re setting out a very clear, ambitious and deliverable plan for the council and our borough. It’s a pivotal time, and colleagues and I look forward to confirming more details in the weeks ahead.”
Labour Councillor Martin Bond, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said: “We cannot shy away from the financial situation we as a council find ourselves in at this moment in time. Set amid a backdrop of the once in a generation impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our borough and the demand for support means we need to make fundamental changes to services and how we as a council work with others.
“We recognise though that to get our borough into a position of strength we need to also kick start regeneration across our communities. We want to do that with residents by our side and in the Medium-Term Financial Plan we have earmarked more than £100m in investments to transform our assets, support people to thrive and work together to protect the most vulnerable in our borough.”