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Council prepares for challenging budget as Chancellor unveils Autumn Statement | Sandwell Council

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Council prepares for challenging budget as Chancellor unveils Autumn Statement

Published 17th November 2022

Sandwell Council will work to protect local services as far as possible through the cost of living crisis – as the authority prepares for its most challenging budget since 2010.

Like all local authorities, Sandwell is seeing increase in demand for services for the most vulnerable residents. And at the same time costs are going up due to the high rate of inflation that is affecting everyone.

The political and economic turmoil in the UK in recent months has added to the considerable uncertainty nationally around local government funding, which affects Sandwell too.

Responding to today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sandwell Council Leader Councillor Kerrie Carmichael said: “Like all local authorities, we are facing significant financial pressures at the moment.

“We are doing everything we can to support residents and businesses through the cost of living crisis. For example, we are one of a handful of local authorities still providing 100% council tax support and we have the second lowest council tax rate in the West Midlands.

“We will be closely examining today’s Autumn Statement so that we can best protect vital frontline services for our residents and businesses, but it’s clear that there are going to be many challenges ahead.”

Sandwell Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources Councillor Bob Piper said: “We will be doing everything we can to target the resources we have available to the services that matter most to Sandwell people, while also attracting investment and creating jobs and opportunities in the borough.

“The challenges local authorities up and down the country face mean that we inevitably need to make savings here in Sandwell.

“As with our recently launched Supporting Sandwell programme, to help people with the cost of living, we will always support those residents in our communities who most need our help.”

A report was presented to the council’s Cabinet yesterday (Wednesday 16 November) setting out these financial challenges, the uncertainties over funding for councils and areas of potential savings to ensure a balanced budget can be achieved next year. The council is expecting to need to save around £15million in 2022/23.

Councillor Piper added: “We will be looking carefully at today’s Autumn Statement ahead of the Local Government Finance Settlement in December.

“We have produced this draft budget based on what we know so far and also lots of assumptions on what we expect to receive from the Government. We are also dealing with various spend pressures, largely due to increasing demand on our services and rising inflation, that have exceeded previous forecasts.”

Approximately 70 per cent of the council’s net budget is spent on services for vulnerable adults and children. The remainder is spent on services such as street cleansing, road maintenance, libraries, leisure centres and waste and recycling collections.

The council carried out a public budget consultation exercise earlier this year, to inform the budget process and ensure the council’s resources are focused towards priority services.

The consultation shows there is no single option to close the budget gap that carries support from more than a third of respondents, so there will be more engagement with people in Sandwell in the coming months regarding service priorities and how they are paid for.

The final budget proposals – and council tax arrangements – for 2023/24 will go to the council’s Full Council meeting in March for approval.