North Yorkshire is proposing a budget which recognises the financial difficulties that many residents are facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but which also seeks to protect vital front line services.
The Budget for 2021/22 to be considered by the County Council’s Executive next week, includes use of one-off emergency government funding and use of just over £8m of the Council’s own internal funds next year.
Councillors will hear that North Yorkshire faces a projected cash shortfall of £59m by 2023/24 and that while use of reserves is not sustainable, it is necessary next year due to major uncertainties and a squeezed savings programme as a direct result of Covid. This comes on the back of an extra £82m of spending in response to Covid in the last year alone.
Cllr Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Leader said: “We hope to be clearer later in the year about the legacy of Covid, the Government’s decision on local government reorganisation in North Yorkshire and the future of council funding beyond 2022.
“The times have never been so uncertain, and given these uncertainties it is critical that the Council maintains as much flexibility as possible in order to protect vital services whilst being able to respond to further potential shocks.
“We understand that residents are facing many difficulties in the light of Covid. We also understand just how vital some of the council’s services are to the most vulnerable in society.”
For this reason the council says it is trying “to get the balance right” by setting adult social care precept at 1.5% rather than the 3% permitted by Government.
The Executive is recommended to agree that a general council tax increase of 1.99% is supplemented with a 1.5% social care precept leading to a total council tax increase of 3.49 per cent.
“We think it is right that we use reserves at this point,” said Cllr Les, “so we can avoid rushing into savings that may be at the expense of services to some of our most vulnerable residents.
“We are also making sure that we can find extra money to support those residents who find themselves in the greatest financial difficulty eg initiatives such as the Local Assistance Fund and the support provided to Community Support Organisations.
“We cannot rule out the possibility that the council may need to set a further budget later in the year once we are clearer about key issues.
“In the meantime, it is important that we all focus on doing the right things to deal with Covid, support people in our communities, help colleagues in the NHS to deliver the vaccination programme and prepare for the recovery in the wake of Covid.”
A council tax increase of 3.49 per cent would lead to an average Band D council tax level of £1,411.05 for 2021/22