The budget proposals unveiled yesterday by Stoke-on-Trent City Council will inject £5m into areas including boosting private sector job creation and kick-starting the local economy.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Mohammed Pervez has outlined the bold proposals in the face of stern government-imposed spending cuts. As part of the authority’s Mandate for Change the top priority is to create a great working city, to make Stoke-on-Trent the place to bring business. The council’s cabinet is implementing a raft of measures that will provide a ‘red carpet’ treatment to new businesses, improving key infrastructure links and boosting what the city has to offer. The measures come as the authority has announced it needs to find savings totalling £24m for the year 2012-13.
Councillor Pervez said
We are committed to our Mandate for Change to make our city a great place to live and bring business. But the government’s stance is forcing the way we have to make budget cuts. The government-imposed spending restrictions for the last two years have been the fiercest ever endured by this authority. Last year we were faced with making £36m worth of cuts, and this year we are faced with another huge task just to balance the books.
The way the government is imposing spending restrictions means we are no longer going to be able to sustain or create the same level of public sector jobs. Therefore it is crucial that the private sector can stimulate growth and has the ability to do this.
Our ambitious capital programme, such as the £250m Building Schools for the Future scheme, is giving the private sector confidence that we can deliver, and confidence for them to invest in Stoke-on-Trent.
Government-imposed cuts will next year reduce the council’s budget by £8m. On top of this, unavoidable costs such as inflation, legally-required staff increments, procurement and the payback for capital projects will total around £11m. This means the council needs to find £19m just to stand still.
But the council’s cabinet is proposing to invest an extra £5m in areas that will drive the city forward, redesigning the council for growth.
Key investment proposals in the budget will
- Enable the construction of new access links to further open up Etruria Valley for expansion.
- Provide small grants to give a facelift to independent retailers’ shop fronts in the city centre.
- Complete the design of the city centre ring road.
- Improve the appearance of the area in front of Stoke Station.
- Help reduce traffic congestion by investing in the current signal network and additional bus priority systems.
- Launch new business support packages to help new and growing local businesses.
- Increase the number of foster carers in the city.
- Provide training for children and young people with special educational needs to travel independently across the city.
- Launch a range of city-wide events and festivals to increase the number of visitors into the city.
- Bring forward proposals to secure the development of a comprehensive Cultural Quarter and city centre hotel.
- Hold a housing self-build competition to encourage diverse and high quality residential developments.
- Focus on getting tough on fraudulent activity, especially benefit and tenancy fraud.
During 2011/12, the city centre bus station will be completed, and site preparation and clearance for the £350m City Sentral leisure and retail development will take place. The council will improve day opportunities for adults with complex learning difficulties through a million pound redevelopment of Newstead Day Centre. The authority will also look to dispose of a number of buildings to support its investment programme.
Councillor Pervez said
In some parts of our city there is a culture of dependence, and we have to lift our residents out of this. If we can stimulate the economy and help the private sector to create jobs, they will have the means to have money in their pocket and not rely on the state. This will mean the council will then be able to focus on helping the most vulnerable.
I believe in being open and transparent, and the budget proposals are just that. Some of them are difficult and are extremely tough decisions to propose. We could simply cut and cut every year, or we could sit on our hands and do nothing. But both would be reckless and shirking our responsibilities. We are a responsible council, and take our responsibility to manage services and taxpayers’ money seriously. We need to save to invest and that is what these budget proposals are designed to do.
These are tough decisions to take, but we want to ensure that in making them we fully consider the views of local residents. That is why we are now embarking on a wide-ranging consultation process, and I urge as many people as possible to tell us their opinions. The proposals that we have put forward are just that – proposals. We need local people to contribute their views to help shape the decisions we make.
Details of the budget proposals can be found online at the link below.
The council’s budget consultation will run until 23 December. Details of a consultation roadshow, where cabinet members and officers will be able to meet residents and explain the budget proposals, will be revealed later this week. Residents can give their feedback on the proposals by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.