Manchester avoids worst jobs and service cuts with airport cash boost

The worst of service cuts at Manchester City Council have been avoided after the local authority was able to reduce its budget deficit.

In October, Manchester council announced that it would need to make significant service cuts in order to meet a budget deficit thought to reach between £40m and £75m.

However, the council has now announced that the gap will be closer to £30m. Although the government’s financial settlement left it £1.2m worse off than anticipated, a review of resources identified new sources of revenue, including £8.4m from the council’s share in Manchester Airport Group and £6.8m of airport dividend, which had previously been earmarked for capital investment.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The last few years have been very challenging for the council as we have had to deal with continuing cuts at the same time as increasing pressures on services. This has been exacerbated by unfair government funding settlements which have hit big cities such as Manchester the hardest.

“But we remain determined to do all we can, working with Manchester people and other partners, to continue to protect the vulnerable and give everyone the opportunity to share in the success of the city’s growing economy.”

He added that this budget process underlines the partnership approach the local authority has taken in attempt to strike the right balance which, inevitably, “still involves some difficult decisions”.

The unexpected closure of the funding gap meant that the council was able to avoid its most extreme proposals, including cutting staff in the neighbourhood teams and the work and skills department.

Youth and play services, early years parenting support and speech and language therapy, emergency grants, health visitors and proactive prosecutions for fly-tipping and blue badge fraud were also protected from significant cuts.

The council also confirmed that it will introduce the 3% council tax precept to pay for social care, which communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid brought forward in December. However, it warned that this will only raise £8.5m, far short of the planned £30m increase in the social care budget.

The city’s social services will now be subject to £12m efficiency savings over the next three years, compared to original proposals of £27m. The savings will be achieved through the Locality Plan for integrated health and social care and delivered in partnership with Manchester’s CCGs, with which the council shares joint commissioning.

 In addition, the local authority will raise taxes by a further 1.99%, to cover the cost of the apprenticeship levy and a £2m a year increase in the highways budget.

The increase in council tax will also increase pressure on the council tax support budget, which has been devolved to local councils. However, Manchester council confirmed it had now been able to halve cuts to the council tax support budget from £2m to £1m.

The council will still have to make a number of cuts and savings, including:

  • Saving £1m from children’s services through safely reducing the number of children in care, and £886,000 in commissioning efficiencies. However, this money will be reinvested in supporting social worker capacity
  • £11m efficiency savings on corporate core services, including human resources, customer service, IT and finance
  • Saving £3m through efficiencies in waste-disposal arrangements

Manchester residents can take part in a consultation on the budget proposals until 10 February.

Cllr John Flanagan, the council’s executive member for finance, said: “Manchester people have played a valuable role in shaping the budget so far. We’re grateful to them for their time so far and would welcome further input on the proposed budget.”

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