Sandwell Council’s budget for 2024/25 approved by cabinet

A proposed budget for the 2024/25 financial year was approved by Sandwell Council’s cabinet this week. The proposed budget sets

out £333million of spending on services that serve 344,000 residents, £417million of investment on capital projects and a further £223m of investment in the council’s housing stock. The budget also proposes recurring savings of £12million and temporary cost reduction measures of £7m. Alongside this, reflecting the need to maintain spending power in the face of higher levels of inflation, the budget proposes a Council Tax increase of 2.99% and a 2% increase to the Adult Social Care; these increases will help maintain services to the borough.

Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources Councillor Bob Piper said: “I want to reassure residents that Sandwell Council isn’t in the extreme financial difficulties that some other local authorities across the country have reported. “However, we do face significant financial pressures as a result of rising demand for our services at the same time as our costs are going up, which means some difficult decisions need to be made.” “Only a few weeks ago, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Simon Hoare MP praised the council for its responsible financial decisions and sound financial management. “A 4.99% overall increase is in line with the rate by which the vast majority of councils are raising Council Tax.

This will enable us to continue to deliver and improve services, while making savings to balance the books.” Councillor Piper said the budget had been put together in consultation with residents, businesses and voluntary organisations. He added: “Those consultations have shown us how the people of Sandwell value our universal services. They want clean streets, decent parks and open spaces, good leisure facilities and roads. They want us to provide support to those least able to support themselves. They want children to have the best start in life. “We’ve delivered the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre which is welcoming 15,500 visitors each week. Our network of libraries are vibrant community spaces where we have play sessions, homework clubs and Welcoming Spaces which have already been visited more than 100,000 times this winter. “We're proud to have fantastic parks and green spaces across Sandwell and are investing in much-needed new housing and regenerating our high streets. “This budget will enable us to continue bringing more great opportunities and facilities to Sandwell.”

Leader of Sandwell Council Councillor Kerrie Carmichael said: “Sandwell, like other councils, has faced significant financial pressures in recent years. “Demand for our services, often for our most vulnerable residents, has continued to increase – as has the cost of providing these services.

“This proposed budget protects those vulnerable people, it protects the core services that are important to our residents. It’s a budget that will help us to improve services and deliver our ambitions for Sandwell and its residents.” The proposals take into consideration findings from budget consultations carried out with residents, businesses and voluntary sector organisations. Councillor Piper added: “We have support available for anyone who is struggling to pay their Council Tax bill. If you are having trouble paying, do get in touch with us – we have financial help and advice available for anyone in financial difficulty.”

Anyone struggling to pay their Council Tax should contact the Council Tax team or the Council’s Welfare Rights team and ask about the Council Tax Support Scheme.

The majority of properties in Sandwell are in Council Tax Bands A and B, with 43% being in Band A and 33% Band B – putting more than three quarters of Sandwell households in the two lowest bands. If the proposals are approved, the increase in Council Tax would equate to £1.06 per week for a Band A property and £1.23 per week for a Band B property. One in three Band A properties and one in six Band B properties also receive a Council Tax reduction based on their income, meaning those households will see a lower increase in their bill.

This proposed rise only takes into account Council Tax. Precepts for the police and fire service will be decided separately. The proposed budget will now be put to the next Full Council meeting on Tuesday 20 February.

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