Hard up Sheffielders have been thrown a financial lifeline by Council leaders as they reveal today they are freezing Council Tax once again – despite having to contend with the deepest cuts to Council funding in decades.
As evidence reveals people are feeling the pinch this year more than ever as the cost of living and energy bills continue to soar, Sheffield City Council is proposing to not put up Council Tax.
This comes as the Council announces it has been able to balance its budget this year, amid shrinking Government funding and other pressures. The Council is currently on track to save £54m this year but has a further similar amount to save next year.
As it prepares to set its 2014/15 budget on top of £180m of savings over the last three years, the City Council says it now has fewer and fewer ‘efficiency’ options left and warns that it is going to get harder to protect services in the future.
Proposals on how this can be managed will be discussed in a Budget Conversation event tomorrow (Wednesday, 15 January), where key partners will be able to talk to city leaders. This follows on from a similar consultation event held in September aimed at the Council’s stakeholders – from partners who help deliver services, to organisations that represent the people the Council supports. They are designed to provide these groups and individuals – who play such a vital role in the city – with a better understanding of the Council’s current financial position and give them the opportunity to shape its approach.
Finance Cabinet Member Councillor Ben Curran said:
“These are unprecedented times for Sheffield City Council. By 2015 this Council will have lost 50 per cent of its funding from central Government over the last five years. We cannot take such a hit without this having a serious impact in terms of what we can and can’t deliver as a Council.
We have taken a careful and measured approach in terms of the budget but we have to make difficult decisions to save jobs and keep vital public services while protecting vulnerable citizens. But the bottom line is this cannot be sustained and more difficult decisions are likely in the future. And the evidence shows councils in the North of England have been hit far harder than those in the South and South East, which cannot be fair by anyone’s standards.
We also recognise the cost of living has reached crisis point for many in terms of making ends meet and that is why we are proposing to freeze Council Tax.”
He added the co-operation of residents, community groups and partners had been instrumental in the fight to save valuable services and he hoped this would be something which could be continued.
Today the Council has also confirmed with the Government its worst case scenario in terms of numbers of possible jobs cuts over the coming financial year. This is a technical exercise which every Council has to submit to the Government and this year, like last year, Sheffield City Council has identified a possible 600 jobs at risk. However, the actual reality is usually far lower. Last year 300 jobs went at the Council, most of which were through voluntary severance and early retirement schemes.