Southampton City Council approves bold new budget and investment plans
Members of Southampton City Council voted at February’s meeting of full council to approve plans to invest almost £1bn by 2025 to unleash the city’s potential and meet the needs of residents. Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader of the Council, explains in this short video:
The budget is split into two distinct areas:
People - Delivering vital everyday services
The new budget sets out how we plan to finance the hundreds of services we deliver every day for the people of the city. This includes the more visible services such as collecting bins and fixing potholes as well as looking after the most vulnerable children and adults in our communities.
The core part of your council tax bill will not increase for the financial year 2020/21.
The budget will enable us to invest in priority areas including:
- £0.3m for the Feed the Future programme providing free healthy foods and holiday clubs at schools to tackle child hunger
- £0.5m for additional street cleaning and enforcement measures
- £0.3m to support our bid for City of Culture 2025
To help meet the rising demand to care for vulnerable adults there is a 2% increase in the adult social care precept for 2020/21. This is collected exclusively for use in funding adult care services. This rise in the precept will translate to an extra 59p a week on the council tax bill for a Band D property for the Southampton City Council element of council tax.
Hampshire Police and Hampshire Fire and Rescue will decide on their own share of council tax bills.
Place - Capital investments for the future
The budget proposals include an exciting package of investments for the future of the city. Members have approved a net addition of £408m to the capital programme to 2024/25 which would total £981m. The projects that have been proposed include:
- £32.9m for a new public service hub at Bitterne Precinct – including a state-of-the art leisure centre, library and other health services
- £16.9m for the refurbishment of the Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre to train our next generation of athletes
- £21m to fund our Green City Delivery plan to tackle air pollution and become a carbon neutral council by 2030 - at the latest
- £1.2m to improve 15 city playparks and opens spaces for children and families
- £2.5m extra invested over the next five years for the improvement of pavements and pedestrian areas
- £250m investment in council housing by 2024/25, ensuring housing is safe, energy efficient and high quality
The funding for these projects is proposed to come from a number of sources including prudent borrowing within agreed limits, grants from central government and contributions from third parties.
Some of the major transport projects detailed in the budget will rely on government funding to proceed in full. We are now in the process of bidding for these funds. This includes our joint bid with Hampshire County Council to the Transforming Cities Fund from the Department for Transport which we expect a decision on this Spring. You can learn more about our bid and our future plans for transport on the Connecting Southampton website.
The consultation process
The budget was compiled based on feedback from residents following a consultation which ran from October 2019 to January 2020.
- 633 people responded to the consultation
- 74% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with our proposals on priority investment areas. These included meeting the commitments of the Green City Charter; tackling child hunger; investing in transport; bidding to become the City of Culture 2025; and investing in adult social care to help the most vulnerable in the community.
- 78% either agreed or strongly agreed with our proposals to make efficiencies by streamlining management, reducing the cost of IT and other measures.
The money we get from Council Tax only covers around 20% of our total expenditure. The rest of our funding is made up of income from business rates (which are set by central government), government grants, fees, charges and funding we win through bids.
The core funding we have received from Government has reduced significantly over the last eight years and in that time we have had to make over £151m of budget reductions. At the same time, the cost of social care for adults and children continues to increase year on year.
£7.6m of savings were approved as part of our budget next year. These include:
- £0.4m saving following a resource review of internal staffing structures and the reduction in the number of senior manager posts
- £0.25m saving from renegotiating contracts and attaining best value for money
- £4.1m from measures designed to generate extra income
Councillor Christopher Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council, said:
"We are approaching our budget differently this year and setting a five year plan to make sure Southampton is a greener, fairer and healthier city. It’s not been easy to balance the books, when our funding from Government has reduced significantly over the last eight years, leading to £151m of budget reductions. We’ve had to make difficult decisions and do more with less in the face of rising demand for our services, particularly social care.
"Southampton is a great city and we’re entering a new decade. The best way forward is to invest, helping the city grow and its people thrive. This bold new budget sets out almost £1bn worth of investments for a better future.
"There are some exciting projects in the pipeline over the next five years. Projects like the Bitterne Hub, our Green City Delivery plan, the Outdoor Sports Centre, and expanding our Feed the Future programme to tackle the injustice of child hunger in our city. This year’s budget will enable us to tackle the big challenges and plan for the future whilst ensuring we get the basics right.
"Through careful management of public money, we’re able to propose a freeze on core council tax for residents in 2020/21. In the absence of any new plan for funding adult social care from central government, it is necessary to propose a small rise of 2% in the adult social care precept to help us meet demand from residents for these vital services for vulnerable people."
You can read the papers discussed at the meeting in full from the Council meeting web page under Agenda Item 4 The Medium Term Financial Strategy, Budget and Capital Programme 2020/21 to 2022/23 and Agenda item 5 The Corporate Business Plan: Southampton City of Opportunity.