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Budget 2024-25 background header

Budget 2024-25

Our current financial position
What a balanced budget is
Our medium term financial strategy
- Reserves
Council budgets - what we spend money on

As a result of the combined impact of increasing costs and demand, and reductions to funding, we've had to take £207.5 million out of our budget over the last 14 years, which is equivalent to 68% of our current Net Revenue Budget of £306.3 million.

We continue to operate in the context of an unprecedented period of financial and economic uncertainty set against the backdrop of over a decade of austerity, disproportionate cuts to funding, delays to funding reform, increasing demand particularly in social care, and more recently high inflation.

Our budget for 2024/25 is focused on delivering our Corporate Plan pledges to help Gateshead thrive. 

View the full Budget report (PDF) [1MB] (opens new window)

Our current financial position

Like all councils, we've faced increasing pressure on much needed services and limited budgets for many years.

The way councils are funded has changed during that time and the Government has tried to move from reliance on grant funding which was based on the needs of an area, to raising local income to fund services. However demand for services has increased, costs are increasing but funding is not increasing at the same rate. 

We have looked at ways to invest wisely and secure value for money in service delivery and contracts, however our Medium Term Financial Strategy estimates show that we must do more which will require very difficult decisions and possibly new ways of working and service delivery.

Since 2010 the money we have to spend per resident has decreased by £1050. We expect this to be reduced by a further £179 over the next five years. This means over £1229 less per person.

  • 90% of properties in Gateshead are in Council Tax bands A to C
  • it costs just under £772,000 to run our services every day
  • as part of our 2023/24 budget we invested an additional £19m in social care to support those who need it most
  • 39% of our income comes from Council Tax

Cost of services infographic

    What a balanced budget is

    Every council must have a balanced budget which means expenditure cannot be more than the council's income for the forthcoming financial year.

    Our medium term financial strategy

    The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) outlines the approach to setting out the council's financial future over a rolling five-year period. It estimates the additional costs and pressures that the council is facing due to inflation, demand, and policy changes will increase by £77.5m, whilst the estimated change in funding for the same period will only total £28m. The difference of £49.5m is the funding gap which must be closed to achieve a legally balanced budget.

    Like many households and businesses we also face increased costs for things such as energy and rising salaries for our own staff and for those who deliver services on our behalf such as care workers.


    We often get asked why we don't use our financial reserves to balance our budget. In short, we do, however, we need to retain a certain level of reserves for known risks, specific planned projects and for unknown risks or emergencies. Using all of our reserves would make us vulnerable to unexpected financial pressures, such as the recent dramatic increase in inflation, and does not provide a long-term solution to our budget challenges.

    Reserves (like savings) are held by the Council for many important reasons and some of these are ringfenced for a specific reason and cannot be used to support the general budget. They can also only be used once so are not a sustainable way to fund services.

    When compared to other local authorities we do not hold excessive amounts in reserves.

    Budget reserves infographic

    In March 2023 we held £11.9m in our general fund reserve for unforeseen expenditure - we must keep 3% of our net budget as a minimum level.

    We held £74.7m earmarked reserves - set aside for specific purposes. The 2023-24 budget agreed use of £16.887m of earmarked reserves, and the MTFS outlines plans to use a further £22.175m in the years 2024-25 to 2026-27.

    Council budgets - what we spend money on

    Our revenue and capital budget reports are agreed at Council in February each year. This sets out the Council Tax levels and the capital programme of activity for the coming year. By law, we must set a balanced budget by 11 March.

    Revenue budget

    The revenue budget is the term used to describe the amount that a local council spends on its day-to-day running of services. This includes wages and salaries, property and transport, running costs, repairs and maintenance, utilities and payments to suppliers. It is the same as day to day bills and costs that need to be paid to manage a household.

    Gross budget is the total budgeted cost before any budgeted income is considered. The total gross revenue budget for running Council Services set in February 2023 was £523.887 million.

    The net budget is the budgeted cost of the service after all the service specific income has been taken off such as trading income, service level agreements, fees and charges and service specific grants. The total net revenue budget for 2023/24 agreed in February was £281.885 million. This is what is costs to run Council services and must be funded through government grant, council tax and business rate income.

    Our services cost just over £772,000 to run per day.

    How every pound is spent infographic

    How our revenue budgets are funded

    The three main sources of funding towards meeting the cost of our revenue budget are:

    • Central Government grants - direct funding from the government
    • Business Rates income - a tax on commercial properties
    • Council Tax income - a tax on residential properties

    Central Government grants

    Grants broadly fall into two categories:

    Specific ring fenced grants
    We must spend these on particular services or activities as they are earmarked for a specific activity such as Public Health Grant. They can also be to pass through the Council such as funding for schools and housing benefit administration. These cannot be used to fund general council services as they have set conditions for the grants use.

    Core Funding
    Core funding includes grants that the Council can spend directly on the services for which they are responsible. The main grant is called the Revenue Support Grant (RSG). Core grant funding has significantly decreased over the last years as Government tried to move away from dependence on grants and encouraged local income and funding sources.

    Cuts to grant funding are harder to manage for some councils than for others because some councils such as Gateshead are more reliant on grant funding to fund local services. Areas of high need and deprivation are likely to have less income from council tax and business rates due to lower property values and more likely to experience higher demand for services.

    Local funding (Business Rates)

    Business rates are collected locally. We have very little control over the tax itself and how it is determined. How much each business pays depends on the rateable value of their premises, which is decided by the Valuation Office Agency. Rates are calculated based on a fixed property valuation, which is reviewed and updated every five years. There was a revaluation update in 1 April 2023.

    We keep 49% of the income we collect from business rates, 50% is sent to central government and the remaining 1% is sent to the Tyne and Wear Fire Service. We then receive a further 'top up' payment as Gateshead is deemed less able to generate business rates based on the local economic circumstances when compared to other local authorities across the country. 

    Local funding (Council Tax)

    Council tax is the only tax collected and fully retained locally, although the total amount residents pay includes precept amounts for the Police and Crime Commissioner, Fire and Rescue Authority and Lamesley Parish, for those residents who live in the parish. The funding is collected and then paid over to them by the council. Despite its local nature, local authorities are subject to controls on the tax set by central government giving council's little or no flexibility.

    Despite changes to house prices since council tax bands were set in 1991, we cannot increase the highest rate of council tax on high value properties, or reduce it on the lowest value homes to keep pace with these changes. This means increasingly the wealthiest pay proportionately less, while the least wealthy pay proportionately more.

    For the purpose of council tax each property is assigned to one of eight bands, A to H, based on their value in 1991. For properties built after 1991, value is assessed as if the property had existed in 1991. The band a property is placed in determines how much council tax will be paid relative to other properties in the same council area. For example, a Band A property will pay two thirds of the amount of council tax paid by a property in Band D, while a property in Band H will pay double.

    It is important to understand that different local authorities have very different make up of dwellings in their area. For instance, Gateshead has almost 90% of chargeable dwellings in valuation Bands A to C, this compares to 65% across England.

    Very different property values in different areas of the country mean that higher-value areas (in which a greater share of properties are in top bands) can set council tax lower to fund a given level of services. Combined with the regressive nature of the band structure and out-of-date valuations, this drives much lower effective council tax rates in the South of England than elsewhere in the country.

    Other sources of local income

    There are other sources of income that the Council can call upon, however these are much smaller in scale:

    • Reserves - this is not technically an income stream but reserves can be used to finance one off spend. Like saving for a "rainy day" reserves can be used for emergencies or set aside to meet a particular known risk or one off activity. The Council maintains a general reserve at a minimum of 3% of the net revenue budget to cover any major unforeseen expenditure. Reserves can only be spent once and are not a substitute for sufficient income for day-to-day spending, they create some much-needed flexibility in constrained budgets and are planned to be utilised in this way over the next three financial years. The use and level of reserve balances are reviewed regularly.  Some reserves are ringfenced meaning they are restricted to a specific purpose and cannot be used for any other area of spend. 
    • Capital Investment - we have access to borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board. This has enabled us to make capital investments that may create revenue returns, savings or regeneration of an area, however we must always balance return and risk when using public money in this manner.
    • Fees and Charges - councils have power to put fees and charges on a range of services they provide such as planning and leisure centres. The income from fees and charges is included in the service budgets.

    How our net revenue budget is funded

    Revenue budget pie chart

    Capital spend

    Capital spending is money spent on creating or improving assets where the benefits last more than 12 months. This often includes spending on things such as land and buildings or vehicles and equipment, which can be used over a long period. For example, if you purchase a house, this is your capital expenditure. This kind of spend is different to revenue spend, which covers day-to-day items to run services such as staffing and purchase of services, so it is budgeted for separately. Your daily outgoings such a purchasing food is the equivalent of revenue expenditure whereas an extension to a property for example is the equivalent of capital expenditure.

    If we modernise a property, this is capital expenditure. If we unblock a drain, it is revenue expenditure. Capital expenditure is usually one-off in nature, it can be a significant amount and can span over a number of financial years.

    The Council's five-year capital programme is informed by the availability of money identified within the Council's financial plan. The capital programme is reviewed and approved annually by Council.  The planned investment agreed in February 2023 for the capital programme totalled £495.5 million.

    Priority is given to schemes which support the achievement of the Council priorities, generate revenue savings or economic growth, maintain Council assets or are a statutory requirement.

    Capital programme strategy pie chart

    How our Capital expenditure is funded

    • Prudential borrowing - This is the main source of available funding and allows the Council to borrow from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) or market loans to fund the capital programme. Borrowing must be affordable so we have to be sure that we can pay back any borrowing including the principal and interest.
    • Government grants - Grants can be made available to fund certain capital expenditure usually transport or school related. In most cases grant will part fund the project but will not provide ongoing revenue support.
    • Capital receipts - These are the proceeds from the sale of council land, buildings and council houses greater than £10,000.
    • External funding - Grants and other contributions may be awarded as part of annual settlements to support general capital expenditure, following applications for external funding to support specific schemes or through private sector contributions.
    • Major Repairs Reserve (MRR) - This funds capital expenditure within the Housing Revenue Account and is ring-fenced for capital purposes.

    How we know what is Capital and what is Revenue

    There are strict rules that define whether expenditure is revenue or capital. There are links between the two as spending money on new assets, improving them or on regenerating an area for example can lead to cost savings or increased income in the revenue budget. This is always considered as part of the business case for new projects. Any cost of borrowing will have loan repayment and interest costs (like a mortgage) and the cost of borrowing is charged as a cost into the revenue budget.

    Are all services funded from the same pot of money?

    Every Council has a general fund which is where most services' spend and income is held however there are a few accounts we also run which are kept separate from main council budgets.

    Other sources of funding infographic