Balanced budget and future focus despite pressures of Covid-19

Written by Sheffield City Council

Following public consultation, we have set out Sheffield’s 2021/22 budget, investing in the care sector, youth services and community safety, giving Council Tax support to those who need it most, retaining citywide essential services to all residents, and delivering on priorities for a sustainable future, despite the challenges brought about by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

We have achieved a balanced position, but there remains an uncertain picture beyond 2022 as the impact of responding the pandemic continues.

After setting a balanced budget in 2020/21 we faced unprecedented resource and financial pressures when coronavirus plunged the country into lockdown last March.

Throughout, the focus of the response has been working alongside our partners and communities to keep people safe and well, protect the most vulnerable, help people to get back to school and work, and support economic recovery.

This has included helping 22,000 people through our community helpline, distributing hundreds of thousands of PPE items per week, supporting schools to stay open for children of key worker and vulnerable families, assisting 4,700 businesses across the city to access grants totalling £116million, and much more.

The financial impact of this response has resulted in Sheffield facing a budget gap of over £60million and uncertainties around the level of Government funding beyond the next financial year.

A balanced position has been reached for the coming financial year, but this relies on:

  • Increasing council tax by the maximum 4.99 percent
  • Delivery of £21 million in service area and corporate savings
  • £21 million of Central Government, mainly Covid-related, funding

Councillor Terry Fox, Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance, said:

“After initially having a balanced budget we have actually faced one of the most difficult challenges of our lifetime in responding to this pandemic.   

“We will always prioritise the needs and wellbeing of our residents, and that continues this year, but means making some difficult decisions. Pressures on our services have never been so testing as people are relying on vital services, even more so now than before.   

“We have again managed to reach a balanced financial position for the year ahead, but this relies on us making millions in savings, and with so many unforeseen demands and changes the road ahead is very uncertain.   

“Throughout the pandemic our dedicated workforce has risen to the many challenges and we are extremely grateful for and proud of all their efforts. It is their hard work, along with the fantastic efforts of our partners and communities, that has made it possible for us to continue and reach this balanced position for the year ahead.

“Plans for 2021/22 will form the foundations for recovery and for Sheffield’s future, building upon the citywide unity that has been evident throughout the pandemic and the opportunities that have come as a result. We’ll see additional support for the most vulnerable and our businesses, further commitment to tackling inequalities, and more empowered and safer communities so that we can focus on recovery and growth together.”

Additional investment commitments in the 2021/22 Budget include

  • Care Sector, £4.2million – the current administration remains committed to improving pay for the staff providing services on behalf of the Council. We plan to work with care providers to deliver enhanced pay terms for front line workers in 2021/22.
  • Youth Services, £2million – additional investment in Youth Services to improve the lives of Sheffield’s young people. This investment is planned to increase delivery of youth clubs and social action groups, provide youth services to the most deprived areas in the city promoting positive engagement and activities, enable keyworkers to support young people experiencing difficulties, and support partnership working with the voluntary sector.
  • Council Tax support, £0.5million – Protecting those on low incomes from the pressure of the proposed 4.99% Council Tax increase. This will mean that nobody on Council Tax support will have to pay the 4.99% increase in 2021/22.
  • Community Safety, £1million – to improve community safety and reassurance in local areas. Will include better joint working across the council, and with partners such as SYP, VCF, Health and Schools, as well as our communities and local members. Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour and reducing exploitation of the young and vulnerable with emphasis on prevention and early intervention work.

Cllr Fox added:

“Our services will need to be re-shaped to match the changed world post COVID, and to allow us to make some of those essential savings. We asked people in the city for their views, we’ve listened, and we’re determined to protect, and where possible invest in the services that our most vulnerable residents rely on, to help people of all ages in Sheffield live well and thrive. We’re not going to burden those on Council Tax Support with the worry of increased payments and we want those who need to help to access the relevant services.

“We’ll also continue to deliver the citywide operational services that all residents deserve, collecting your bins, maintaining the roads, looking after our wonderful green spaces, improving leisure opportunities, and moving forward with the many transformational developments happening across the city.

“We still have our eye on the future, have not forgotten the commitments we made to becoming a cleaner, greener city. Our housing, transport and development projects are being planned with sustainable outcomes embedded, and we will maximise and accelerate the many opportunities that the pandemic has presented. Across all sectors we are looking to create a more efficient and sustainable future for Sheffield.  

“We now need more clarity from the Government on the medium-term funding they will provide, recognising the pressure on our services, which support the most vulnerable in our society who have been heavily affected by the pandemic. Local Government has played a significant role in our nation’s response, and we are keen to continue leading the city’s recovery, but we need adequate funding from Central Government.”  

People in Sheffield were consulted on initial budget options for 2021/22. Respondents said that their main priorities for more investment were some of our most critical and key services – including adult social care, children’s social care, education, support for the most vulnerable, and public health.

They also said they were happy to see the level of investment remain the same in some core services such as waste and recycling, planning, highways and transport.

Two-thirds of respondents said that they agreed with the proposed Council Tax increase and how it could play a role in supporting core services and the city’s Covid-19 response, but they are keen to see other fees and charges held at the current level.

People were also supportive of further investment in the city’s economy, essential maintenance, transport and housing, and green and open spaces.

The 2021/22 Budget will be presented for scrutiny on 11 February, before going to Cabinet on 17 February and for final agreement at Budget Council on 3 March.

To view the original press release click here