Members of the public say that the county council’s top priorities should be caring for vulnerable adults and children, roads and the environment.
Meanwhile, they said that the lowest priorities should be promoting the county as a tourist destination, championing local communities, libraries and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
In total, 6,718 responded to Derbyshire County Council’s budget consultation.
It showed that 56 per cent of respondents wanted the council to prioritise improving social care for children and adults above all else. In comparison, 59 per cent felt that promoting Derbyshire as a global cultural and tourist destination should be the council’s lowest of all its priorities.
Some 3,000 of these also shared their opinions on how much council tax should or should not go up by this year.
The authority had pitched three options; a 3.99 per cent tax increase, a 4.99 rise, or neither. Two per cent of this would be geared directly towards adult social care, while the rest of the tax, either 1.99 per cent or 2.99 per cent would fund other priorities such as children’s services.
Overall, the consultation shows that a slim majority gave its backing to “neither” of the council tax increases proposed (35 per cent) rather than favouring one. Meanwhile, 34 per cent supported a 4.99 per cent tax increase and 31 per cent backed a 3.99 per cent hike. The top five reasons given for choosing neither were:
- Council tax doesn’t represent good value for money and the council should cut waste instead
- the current level is already high enough
- the proposals are higher than other increases e.g. inflation and salaries
- the increase is unfair to the less well-off
- the hike is unaffordable.
Other explanations included the need for more money from central government and that the authority should cut management, pensions, staff pay and councillors’ allowances and expenses.
The budget also states that the authority has earmarked a further £18.5 million in cutbacks in 2019 to 2020 – to meet a target of £70 million in savings by 2022. In September this target had surged from the previous target of £53 million. This was put down to the bill for adult care set to rise by £11.8 million from 2018 to 2023 and a pay rise increases costing £10 million.
Within September’s report, the authority’s director of finance and IT, Peter Handford, said that it was the council’s intention to hike council tax in 2019 by 4.99 per cent but freeze it in 2020 and 2021. After this, the authority has proposed a council tax rise of two per cent in 2022.
Forecasts for future budget cuts include a further £26.5 million in 2020 and £12.7 million in 2021. These savings are based on an assumption that the rising demand for adult social care and children’s services will almost cease in the next five years – against current trends.
The council states that adult social care will provided funding pressures of £12.6 million in 2018; £14.1 million in 2019; and £5 million for 2020-23.
It says that funding pressures for children’s services were £7 million in 2018; £3 million in 2019; zero in 2020; and £1 million for 2021-2023.