Budget - questions and answers
The County Council is halfway through a programme that will see it become smaller and more efficient as it works more closely with North Yorkshire communities. This page provides a simple guide to the situation facing the County Council as a result of austerity, how we plan to address that situation, the progress we are making and the challenges we face.
Budget web chat
Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, and chief executive, Richard Flinton, held a live web chat on Tuesday 13 December. You can read the questions asked during the chat and the answers given below.
What is the situation?
Funding provided by central government to local authorities to deliver services has been reduced significantly in recent years. The total savings requirement to meet the reductions in government funding as well as all our costs is estimated at about £174m over the nine years from 2011-12 to 2019-20. This is equivalent to reducing our spending power by about 34 per cent over the decade, while dealing with increasing demand for services. This presents a considerable challenge and we face difficult decisions on spending and service provision.
How do we plan to achieve this?
We have drawn up the 2020 North Yorkshire programme, a long-term plan to make savings through change. This change involves working with communities to find ways in which they can provide services better and more cheaply, for example in running libraries. Our Stronger Communities programme is supporting this work. We are also working with communities, families and individuals to help older and vulnerable people live independently and well for longer. Through our Extra Care programme we are providing homes where people can live independently, but with care on hand when they need it. We also support people with the skills and equipment they need to live independently. People have told us that is what they want to do.
What have we achieved so far?
Up to March 2017 we expect to have saved more than £130m. This has been done largely by improving the efficiency of our back office operations, such as reducing management costs, cutting the cost of our contracts with suppliers and working with partners to avoid duplication. This has helped us to keep the impact on frontline services to a minimum. However, as further savings are required, it becomes increasingly difficult to protect frontline services, which is why we're working with communities to find alternative ways of providing services.
Among the efficiency savings are:
- reducing the costs of human resources, finance, technology, property, legal and democratic services
- cutting the cost of our contracts with suppliers
- reducing the number of managers
- pooling administrative support and reducing numbers
- making savings on staff terms and conditions
- increased income and new ways of working.
Among the frontline savings are:
- changes to library services, meaning some are now community-run
- replacing elderly persons' homes with extra care housing
- reducing youth and children's centres but providing targeted support
- reducing transport subsidies
- reducing grass-cutting services.
What challenges do we face?
To meet the challenge of substantially reduced government funding, we expect to need to save about a further £44m over the next three years. We have identified where some of this can be saved, but currently face a shortfall of £22m. Achieving the required savings becomes increasingly difficult, as there are fewer savings that can be made from just back office functions. We need to ensure that we can still invest in our priority areas, including roads, broadband, supporting the elderly and vulnerable and giving a good start to all young people. More than a quarter of the county's adult population is over 65. Every year the population of older people grows, and with it the demand for care and support.
Where does the council's money come from?
Our funding comes broadly from three areas: central government funding, council tax and business rates. In 2016-17 the amounts received from these sources were:
This gave a total net budget of £361m.
In addition, there is a dedicated schools budget of about £400m.
Where is it spent?
We spend the funds from these sources to provide and support a wide range of services. The larger areas of spending include:
- Adult Social Care: £186m
- Children and Families: £38m
- Home to School Transport: £20m
- Roads: £32m
- Transport: £16m
- Waste Management: £32m
Information about all council services can be found elsewhere on this website.
Will council tax rise?
The government has indicated that it expects authorities with responsibility for adult social care, such as North Yorkshire County Council, to increase council tax by 3.99 per cent in April 2017 and the following two years. This would be made up of a 1.99 per cent general increase in council tax plus a further two per cent specifically to pay for the increasing costs of adult social care, notably the introduction of the National Living Wage, which will affect many care workers. Councillors will decide the county council's council tax level for 2017-18 at their meeting on 15 February. Currently, the council tax charge for an average band D property is £1,143.86, which is below the average for counties. A 3.99 per cent increase equates to just under £46 a year or 88p a week.
Why does my council tax bill include a separate line for adult social care?
Lat year, the Government identified that councils that provide social care services are under increasing pressure for services at a time of reducing funding.
Therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented authorities across the country that deliver adult social care with the flexibility to raise an additional precept of up to two per cent without breaching the council tax referendum threshold. This must be used entirely for adult social care.
Adult social care services include helping people to live independently in their own homes or in residential care where necessary. Adults with physical and learning disabilities are also supported and funded by adult social care. A person's care needs are determined by an assessment by a social care assessor. Once a person has been deemed eligible, a care and support package is agreed with the person and their family. Some people are required to contribute towards the cost of their care if they meet set criteria (eg their level of savings and income).
This extra two per cent on the council tax is called the adult social care precept and can only be used to fund extra costs of adult social care. Demand for adult social care is increasing; the costs of care packages are increasing; and the government's announcement to introduce the National Living Wage alone is estimated to cost almost all of the extra income due to be raised from the precept.
That is why North Yorkshire County Council, along with almost every eligible authority nationally, has taken up the government's offer to raise this additional precept. Without this precept, the County Council would have to find additional savings of around £21m up to 2020.
Can I opt out of the adult social care precept?
No, it is part of the council tax and it is not possible to opt out of any element.
Previous web chats
We held a similar session in 2015 and questions ranged from council tax to reductions in staff; and from roads to waste. You can read through the two-hour chat here.