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Council tackles ninth austerity budget

The authority has identified another £30 million worth of savings to be made over 2019/20, taking the cumulative total of savings and financial pressures over the last nine years to £460 million.

Through prudent financial management, the strategic and careful use of reserves, a focus on joint working with external partners, prevention work and the personalisation of services, plans have been drawn up that see the Council getting to grips with a further four years of financial challenges.

Councillor Olivia Blake, Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council, says: “Sheffield has borne the brunt of austerity for the last nine years, and it’s certainly not over yet. The impact on all public services has been huge, but local councils have faced the deepest and most sustained cuts. We have seen significant structural underfunding of our core work, in particular adult social care, for almost a decade. We have been forced to make many difficult choices.

“Despite all this, in Sheffield we are determined to set a budget that fits with our values and supports preventative interventions to keep people healthy. But I cannot overstate how important good collaboration with our partners will be to achieving this four year plan. It is our duty to deliver changes to the way we support people in Sheffield, and we are committed to working with our NHS colleagues to realise this.”

In 2018/19 Sheffield City Council is set to overspend by approximately £10 million. The budget for 2019/20 includes a planned use of £11 million of reserves in order to sustain social care services in the context of cuts to overall funding, combined with rising pressures for both children’s and adult’s social care.

Councillor Blake says: “The only alternative to this use of reserves would be to make a significant cut to social care budgets, which would hit some of the most vulnerable children and adults in Sheffield hard and at a time when welfare cuts are also impacting on vulnerable households. Despite these brutal cuts to funding, we have identified a further £20 million to invest in social care for 2019/20, on top of £15 million last year.

“While government has provided us with some additional social care funding, this is more than offset by severe cuts to our main source of government funding, the revenue support grant. And we need to remember here that many pressures on social care, and others such as homelessness, are themselves partly a result of government austerity policies.”

The council is clear, though, that beyond 2022/23, there will have to be a more stable funding regime from central government that recognises the pressures in social care, or the situation will become unsustainable.

Councillor Blake says: “We have a financial plan to get us through the next four years. But it is important to be clear that we can’t continue like this for much longer. All local authorities will be in the same position and without changes to government funding of public services, cuts to social care beyond 2023 will become inevitable.”

Related budget documentation is available on Sheffield City Council’s website.