Last Friday we published a first set of budget proposals for 2021/22 which begin to explain how we will deliver the services that we know our residents need with the funding we have available.
Budget setting has been a challenge in recent years with our funding from government reducing by over 70 per cent in the past decade, but the Covid-19 pandemic has raised the bar on this challenge next year.
To put it simply, we need to make savings totalling £36m – that’s almost a quarter of our net revenue budget, i.e. the money we spend each year on providing services.
In recent years we’ve had to make many millions of pounds worth of savings to balance our budget. We’ve done this by reviewing all the services we provide to make sure they are as efficient as possible, by reviewing contracts to get better value and by increasing our income generation – we now generate £78million of external income annually.
At the same time our population continues to rise – we now provide services for more than 202,000 people, we have more older people requiring care, more children needing school places, more children with special educational needs and more children in care.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on the council, as it has many businesses and organisations across our city.
These include a forecast loss of £2.4million in parking revenue, a council tax deficit of £2.8million as many people are unable to pay and an increase in households receiving council tax support, as well as an additional £13.8 million on providing enhanced Adult Social Care services.
This first phase of proposals details how we will save £2.7million but the scale of the challenge will require additional funding and solutions – we cannot meet the challenge by savings alone.
As a result we are discussing with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and our MPs about potential solutions to the financial situation.
This will not just help us to continue to deliver essential services, but will allow us to continue our highly effective support in fighting the effects of Covid-19 in Peterborough.
And let’s not forget how successful that work has been.
We’ve worked with communities to reduce infection rates from a position of having the sixth highest rates in the country, to below the national average and our scheme to contact trace people who have tested positive for COVID-19 currently has a 77% success rate.
At one point we were one of the best in the country for distributing £32m in business grants and awarding 100% business rate relief for designated businesses totalling £40.3m, plus we have supported vulnerable residents through the Peterborough Coordination Hub.
We’ve had our first meeting with MCHLG and I am pleased to say they have promised to work closely with us. They recognise that even with the considerable support already provided to local government, there will be individual authorities with unique circumstances, such as Peterborough.
Delivering a balanced budget next year is the most severe challenge we have faced, but we will find a solution so that we can continue to work hard to keep people safe, support our businesses and to keep our city moving forward.
Peterborough awarded Arts Council Recovery Fund
With our funding in such short supply, it’s always good news when we are successful in bidding for extra money.
So I was delighted to learn we’ve been awarded £493,068 from the government and Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund to reopen some of our most popular arts and heritage facilities.
The grant will be a massive boost as we work to reopen attractions including the Key Theatre, Peterborough Museum and Flag Fen and follows the successful transfer of our arts and leisure services to new providers.
This also demonstrates the commitment of the council, City Culture Peterborough and Peterborough Limited to delivering first class arts, leisure and heritage services which are key to the city’s long-term future.
Central Park wins Green Flag Award for 18th year running
If you’ve visited Central Park recently then it might not surprise you to learn that it’s retained its Green Flag Award – for the 18th consecutive year!
It’s a fantastic achievement and demonstrates what a great park this is for our residents.
Itter Park in Walton and Manor Farm Park in Eye have also been awarded the prestigious honour once again, as well as Peterborough Crematorium.
These awards celebrate the dedication that goes into maintaining the parks to such a high standard, so a big thank you to everyone involved with this.
Remembrance Parade cancelled
Finally, it saddens me to say that like many other areas, we have had to cancel this year’s Remembrance Parade which was a difficult decision, but the safety of our residents is paramount.
Instead there will be a much smaller than usual invitation-only wreath laying ceremony followed by a ticket-only service at the Cathedral to commemorate Remembrance Sunday on 8 November which will be live-streamed.
The Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal will launch as usual this weekend. While you can still buy poppies from volunteers collecting on the streets, supporters are being asked to order poppies online from the Royal British Legion website and get them delivered, or print them off to display.