Gateshead Council budget focuses on investing in the future

Posted on Tuesday 20 February 2018

Gateshead Council's budget for the year ahead focuses on protecting those in the community who need help the most, looking at new ways to manage demand for services and investing to ensure the future prosperity of Gateshead.

Cabinet members at Gateshead Council today (20 February) agreed to recommend to Council £13.65 million of savings as a result of reductions in funding from government, additional cost pressures and rising demand for services. This comes on top of the £143 million that has already been saved over the last seven years. Funding to the council by government has been cut by more than half since 2010 and by 2020 it will be completely withdrawn.   

To help balance the budget, the council is looking at new ways to generate income, is seeking to address and manage the huge pressures created by increasing demand for council services plus identifying efficiencies and savings through new ways of working.

Council tax will rise by 2.99% as well as the Council proposing to approve the Government's 2% precept for adult social care. The increase of 4.99% will put an extra £1.03 a week rise for council tax payers in the lowest band A properties.

Leader of Gateshead Council, Martin Gannon said: "Increasing council tax is never an easy decision, but we're being squeezed more than ever before by the spiralling costs of social care for older people and children and the ongoing cuts in funding from this government. 

"We recognise the impact that this increase will have on our residents and we'll make sure that those who need it get extra help. Our council tax support scheme is there to help those most likely affected by the increase."

The council's current local council tax support scheme helps over 12,000 residents on a low income with a reduction in their council tax.

Councillor Gannon continued: "We recognise that there are huge financial pressures, not just council resources, but those of partners, residents and local businesses. Every day we hear that some people in Gateshead are not coping or are in need. We have too many people out of work and living in poverty. It's just not right, this unfairness can't continue.

"We need to tackle the root cause of this inequality and this will involve a radical rethink about the way we work as a council, the way we spend our money, the way we work with partner organisations and how we work with our local people, families and communities. We want Gateshead to be a place where everyone thrives."

Councillor Gannon said: "To help make this happen it's essential we continue to invest in the future of Gateshead.  We've got to grow our economy, we've got to grow the income to the council. We need to encourage more people to do business here and create more jobs, to live and bring up their families in Gateshead and for those who can, to support their communities more." 

Gateshead Council is committing over £307m from the capital programme over the next five years. Schemes that will encourage economic and housing growth are estimated to attract almost £470m of private investment to Gateshead over the lifetime of the schemes.

Investment schemes include plans to bring nearly 1,000 new homes and will be investing £90.7m to improve existing council housing stock and investing in 21 new council houses, a new high specification office development at Baltic Business Quarter, an upgrade of Follingsby Industrial Estate and investment in transport infrastructure. £35m will be invested in the Gateshead Quays development which will bring a new arena, and conference and exhibition centre with the potential to create more than 1,140 new jobs.   

Next year, the council expects to lose 57 FTE posts and has worked closely with trade unions to keep the number of at risk letters sent to employees as low as possible. Since 2010 the council has reduced its workforce by more than 2,300 posts.

Councillor Gannon said: "Gateshead's a fantastic place with a strong sense of local pride. The Council and its partners have a reputation for achievement, innovation and vision. We have a new challenge now which will be achieved by everyone working together 'doing their bit' and remaining fiercely ambitious for the people of Gateshead."

A full Council meeting on Thursday 22 February will discuss the Budget recommended by Cabinet.

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