Have your say on budget options for council services in 2023/24
Residents are being asked to take part in a budget consultation for St Helens Borough Council, to help determine where spending needs to be prioritised on our council services.
The council faces significant financial challenges as a number of issues have taken their toll on the council's revenue budget. The cost-of-living situation has had a huge impact on many people, reducing their ability to pay for accommodation, food and heating and energy. Many of those in need have turned to the council for extra support which is being offered where possible. But just like residents and businesses the council has also been hit by the rising costs of energy and fuel to keep bin wagons on the roads and streetlights on.
And the inflationary pressures which come from rising costs for things like food for school meal services, social care and nationally agreed wage increases for staff have also added extra costs to the budget. While the council is still feeling the effects from Covid-19 which substantially reduced the council's ability to generate money.
This all comes alongside the significant uncertainty of Central Government funding, which has since 2010 continued to fall year on year meaning the council has become increasingly dependent on local revenues such as Council Tax.
Councillor Martin Bond, Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance, said:
"Each year this budget setting process gets harder and harder, and this year has the recipe for a perfect storm of financial hits on our revenue budget which pays for the services we deliver every day to residents and businesses like child and adult social care, waste collection and much more. Despite our careful financial management, which leaves us in a far better position than many other councils, we are still facing difficult choices to balance the budget for 2023/24."
Councillor David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council, added:
"The options are stark. The coming financial year we are facing a significant budget gap and after 12 years of austerity there are simply no easy options left. Councils everywhere are being forced to consider a combination of service reductions and income generation.
"We've consistently fought for fair funding and I want to thank partners in the local public, private, faith and voluntary sectors for their continued support in this struggle. Like the council they face increasingly difficult choices too, and we are all clear - essential services need fair funding, otherwise residents can continue to expect service cuts and higher charges. Councils can't run services on thin air.
"It is important that residents have their say in the budget consultation to help us know which services you value. The options spell out clearly exactly what further cuts to council funding mean, but I want to assure residents that we will always do everything we can to provide quality services and protect our most vulnerable. However, there is no doubt this is getting more and more difficult, and unless central government changes its approach it shows no signs of getting better."
The budget consultation will launch on Friday 16 December and run until Sunday 15 January with the consultation available online at www.sthelens.gov.uk/budgetconsultation and paper copies will be available from Wednesday 21 December in council buildings like libraries and leisure centres.