Manchester outlines £30m cuts

MANCHESTER City Council has outlined £30m of cuts over the next three years.

In October, the authority had forecast a budget gap of between £40m and £75m between 2017-18 and 2019-20. However, despite the Local Government Financial Settlement leaving the council £1.2m worse off than anticipated, the gap has been reduced to £30m largely thanks to dividends from the Manchester Airport Group, which is 35.5 per cent owned by the city council.

Proposed cuts to services for children, roads, schools and vulnerable adults have therefore been scaled back.

Nevertheless, council tax will rise by 4.99 per cent - the maximum allowed without the need for a public referendum - in each of the next two years. This includes three per cent rises each year, which will be ring-fenced to fund social care. Council tax will rise by 1.99 per cent in 2019-20.

The council said the proposals will raise £17.3m.

Proposed savings from the Council Tax Support scheme for the poorest households have been halved from £2m to £1m. The council said this recognises the potential extra burden on the poorest residents that will be created by planned council tax increases.  

Elsewhere, planned savings from the integration of health and social care have been reduced from £27m to £12m over three years.

Health and social care is currently by far the largest area of council expenditure at £157.7m a year. It plans to deliver savings by working joining up more services with the NHS and jointly buying and designing more services. There would also be greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention to reduce demand on residential care, nursing and hospitals.

"Given the national crisis in social care funding, the lack of extra resource and the need to support people to become more independent over time, the higher savings figure was not considered achievable in the current context," the council said.

Another £10.5m of savings will be delivered from the "corporate core", which includes back-office services such as revenues and benefits, HR, ICT, finance, legal, communications and customer services. The council said the bulk of these savings will be delivered through efficiencies and include £2m from continuing improvements in council tax collection rates.

Streamlining HR policies to reduce employment costs could save £3m over three years, it added.

Other proposals saving around £2.9m over three years by reducing the number of children in care and families needing support. The council said this could be safely achieved by providing earlier support to ensure children can remain at home and reducing unnecessary delays for those who cannot live with their birth family. An increase in foster care would also cut expensive private care placements and improve the standard of support, it added.

The money saved by the changes would not be added to the overall savings figure. Instead, the council, it would be reinvested in supporting social care capacity and other services that prevent children needing to go into care or safely move them out of the system more quickly.

Elsewhere, there will be a review of funding for schools to save £1m over the budget period. The council said funding for schools has changed significantly in recent years, as many schools now receive money directly from the Government.

A separate review will look at the use of council offices and buildings with a goal of saving £250,000 in 2018-19. Some buildings will be improved to better support services, others will be shared with partners and ones that are no longer useful will be closed.

The council also plans to completely review spending and income related to Christmas, including festive lights and the town hall Santa, to save £60,000 a year.

The budget proposals will now go to a final public consultation, which runs until 10 February.

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.

"This budget process underlines this partnership approach as we attempt to strike the right balance which, inevitably, still involves some difficult decisions."