Staffordshire County Council promises investment despite budget pressures
Staffordshire County Council bosses say they will invest millions of pounds in the county in the coming year despite increased financial pressures.
The council has been doing preliminary planning for 2024-25 ahead of a final decision in the new year on where the money will be spent, with a settlement from central government expected just before Christmas.
A medium term financial strategy report to the cabinet meeting next week acknowledges there will need to be new savings, as inflation alone is adding an expected £22.3m to the authority's existing costs for next year.
But the report earmarks money for roads, support for new and existing businesses, rural broadband, public health and investment in communities.
It also says it is expected that £435m of the anticipated £680m net budget will be spent on the provision of social care for the elderly and for supporting and protecting vulnerable children and young people.
Final decisions on council tax will also be made in the budget proper in January, with the government settlement expected to confirm local authorities can raise it to 4.99 per cent without a referendum.
The report identifies an overspend in the High Needs Block (HNB) which covers SEND and other specialised education and disability needs of £20m but says it reflects the growing demand in the sector, any deficit is ringfenced and covered by central government.
It said the budget was balanced in 2023-24 and there was a small amount of headroom for 2024-25 which could also be used in 2025-26 if necessary,
The report says Staffordshire County Council's Economic Growth Programme has delivered more than 11,500 jobs and enabled more than 5,000 houses to be built
Successes the council claim include Fortune Brands delivering the first 300 of up to 1,700 additional jobs at the i54 Western Extension business park; work continuing on the Chatterley Valley West site near Kidsgrove and delivering roundabout access near Stafford for the Pets at Home national distribution centre.
Ian Parry, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “Despite rising costs and increasing demand for services putting all councils under financial pressure, a combination of forward-thinking, planned service reform and attention to detail means we continue to invest in services while delivering a balanced budget.
"We remain a well-run, stable authority despite the difficult financial pressures many councils are facing.
“Like everyone, we have to make ends meet and we will work with partners to make the most of every pound we spend on behalf of our communities.
“Although we know 64 pence in every pound will be spent on care, thanks to careful management we can still commit to investing in Staffordshire’s future across all areas whilst delivering a balanced budget.”