Devon’s Cabinet agrees big spending boost for vulnerable people
Posted on: 15 February 2019
Senior Devon councillors today agreed to spend more money on children’s services, adult social care and roads.
The ruling Cabinet agreed their budget for 2019/20 at a meeting at County Hall in Exeter.
The budget now has to be ratified by the full council meeting next week (February 21).
The budget calls for an extra £11.5 million to be spent on hard-pressed children’s services. That’s a rise of over 9.4 per cent.
Spending on adult care and health will go up by £4.5 million or two per cent and the budgets for community, health and environment and highways and infrastructure will both rise by 0.7 per cent.
Overall, the county’s spending on services will rise from £479.4 million to almost £494 million, if the budget is approved next week.
It will be partly paid for by an increase of 3.99 per cent in council tax. That’s £53.10 extra on an average Band D council tax bill – just over £1 a week. It will take the annual Band D charge for Devon’s services to £1,384.29.
The rise encompasses a 2.99 per cent hike for general services and an extra one per cent dedicated solely to adult social care.
Devon’s Cabinet member for finance, Stuart Barker, said: “This is a balanced
budget which will increase our spending on children’s services by a considerable amount and also our spending on adult services.
“The increase for highways in the revenue budget is not so large but we have won an extra £18 million in capital spending for our roads which is being allocated across the county.”
County Treasurer Mary Davis told councillors that, even with these increases, the budget would be hard to deliver against rapidly rising demand for services. She revealed that Devon’s Government grant had been cut by £13.5 million for 2019/20, equivalent to 11.7 per cent.
“It is a significant reduction to our funding at a time when there are huge pressures on social care services,” she said. “We have had cut on cut on cut from Government but we have a good record of achieving savings.
“This budget is a complex balance of the ongoing effects of reduced Government funding and significant increased pressures in children’s social care and special educational needs and disabilities – high needs.
“This is in addition to ongoing pressures in adult social care, the need to relieve pressure on local hospitals and the need to in-source some services previously provided by private sector partners.
“The service savings of £13.4 millions included within the 2019/20 budget are the lowest level since austerity began nine years ago.
“This level of savings has only been possible due to council tax increases to support services and the Government’s one-off additional funding for winter pressures and social care support.”
Council leader John Hart said: “Our social care support for children and our services for children with special needs and disabilities are facing unprecedented demand.
“And our health and social care services for adults continue to be under immense pressure both in Devon and nationally. In Devon we have some of the highest proportions of people over 65 and people over 85 in the country and they need and deserve our help and support.
“We have always said our priority is to protect the most vulnerable in our society and I believe this budget will help to do that.
“But demand for these services continues to grow at a relentless pace.
“We are very conscious that many people living in Devon are on fixed and low incomes but every year we have to balance imposing more costs on them with our need to ensure our most vulnerable residents get the help and support they need and deserve.
“Our proposed increase will mean an extra £1 a week for the average Band D household and I believe that is justifiable so we can both maintain the services we provide and endeavour to improve them.”
Labour leader Rob Hannaford said he was pleased the budget proposed to take the extra one per cent in council tax for adult services and he welcomed the extra investment in children’s services.
Liberal Democrat leader Alan Connett said: “Devon is being short changed by the Government.”
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