We will continue to do everything possible to deliver for our communities
We will continue to do everything possible to deliver for our communities

The St Helens Borough Council Budget for 2024/25 and Medium Term Financial Plan for 2024/27 has been agreed at full council, committing us to record capital investment of over £200m in regeneration and essential infrastructure projects and protection for our most vulnerable residents.

At full council last night (Wednesday), Labour’s budget proposals were supported by the Greens, Liberal Democrats, Billinge independents, and even the local Conservatives. Only two independent councillors from Newton West and one from Rainhill voted against the plans, but didn’t offer any alternative.

Councils are legally required to set a balanced budget. With costs and demand for services increasing, and central government funding falling, most councils yet again have no choice but to cut services.

Despite the difficult economic reality and the financial pressures we face, Labour is continuing to do the best we can to address the borough’s priorities, to tackle the common challenges we face, to make the most of the opportunities we have, and to deliver the commitments we were elected on in May 2022.

Our £200m capital budget proposals for the next three years include the regeneration of both town centres, school building improvements, and transport investment, while revenue budget proposals for 2024/25 include: more than £2.3m for support for children with SEND; nearly £2m for support for children with disabilities; more than £15m to provide physical support for the frail and elderly; nearly £5m in mental health support; nearly £30m in learning disability support; more than £300,000 for arts development and support; over £1.6m for sport and recreation; over £2.3m for library services; nearly £9m for highways maintenance; over £2.5m for parks and open spaces; and nearly £2m for street cleaning.

None of this is as much as we need but with what we have got, we will continue to do our best for the whole borough at the same time as campaigning for the changes we need in government and the way councils are funded.

Council Leader David Baines said: “In difficult financial circumstances we will continue to do all we can to protect as many frontline services as possible, provide high quality care for the most vulnerable, and invest in the regeneration and long term growth of the borough.

We will invest in the services that we know are important to people, including nearly £9m for our roads, £2m for street cleansing, and over £2.5m for our parks and open spaces. None of this is as much as we need, but with what we’ve got we will work hard to deliver for residents and our communities.

Our biggest revenue spend continues to be on adult social care and children’s services. We have a statutory and moral obligation to invest in those services and care for the residents who need them. At the same time, we are campaigning for national reform to the system, fair funding, and an end to private companies being able to bleed councils dry.

Reluctantly, like the vast majority of councils are having to do the same. And despite that increase – which none of us want to do – we will still have to make cuts to services because the budget gap is so big due to government underfunding and rising demand for services, particularly social care. If we didn’t increase it, we’d need to make another £5m of cuts.

Yesterday’s Tory budget announced by the Chancellor offered no light at the end of the tunnel for local government and council tax payers. We need a Labour government to provide fair funding and support for essential services.”

Councillor Martin Bond, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, said: “Our Medium-Term Financial Plan sets out our plans that will help us to meet the challenges of supporting growth in our borough with a focus on using capital funding to support transformational projects that will build growth long term through investing in our town centres and key projects such as Parkside. We will also be investing in schools and children’s services to provide young people with the best start in life.

“Despite this vital investment we still face challenges with our budget gap forecast to grow to £14.1m over the next three years. It means that it will impact on our Revenue Budget, which is the pot of money we pay for the day-to-day services residents rely on. While it means we have to evaluate how we can deliver these vital services, which might mean some difficult decisions, there will still be investment in frontline services and we will protect as many as possible.

“When you consider though the vast majority of this Revenue Budget will go towards supporting adult and children’s social services – with spending reaching £67.9m and £67.8m each respectively – it puts into stark light the challenges we face to support the most vulnerable people in our society. We know times are tough for households and we have a package in place to support people who may be struggling to meet their bills. But the increase in Council Tax will help towards meeting the increased costs we continue to see, particularly in areas like social care placements.”

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