Councillors put vulnerable children first as more Tory cuts bite

Last week councillors met to formally set Rotherham Council’s budget for the coming year.

Over the decade to 2020, the Tories will have effectively cut £200 million from the council. As a result, more than 2000 jobs will have been lost. And because only half of the council’s income is raised through council tax, what the Tories do in Westminster has a direct impact on the services that the council provides.

Like other councils across the country, a majority of the council’s budget is now spent on providing social care to vulnerable children, families, older people and residents with disabilities. Labour councillors continue to make that our top priority, which is why the proposals include an additional £17 million over the next two years to meet the needs of children who are in the council’s care.

Despite the challenges, our plan keeps our commitment to additional capital investment over the coming year to improve the borough’s roads, and to invest in the town centre, as well as building more council housing. Since 2016 the number of potholes in Rotherham’s roads is down by a third, and we have already announced one of the biggest council house building programmes anywhere in the country.

We are also now making an additional £450,000 investment over the next three years for small scale measures to improve road safety and reduce speeding. And we are increasing the amount of free Saturday parking in the town centre from next month.

Whilst we have done all we can to reduce the impact of budget reductions on services, and to avoid cuts as far as is possible, inevitably there will be an impact. As a result, we are expecting to close Bailey House and Rawmarsh Depot, continuing to reduce the council’s expenditure on buildings. There will be further savings made from customer services as the council improves its online offer and new technology means more information can go directly to frontline staff. More Streetpride and enforcement staff will work on a neighbourhood basis.

In his budget speech (click here to read in full) Cllr Read reminded the chamber that the government’s current proposals for future council funding would mean shifting even more money away from places like Rotherham and into wealthier parts of the country – meaning that the end of austerity is still not within sight.

Cllr Hoddinott in her contribution spoke of the life-changing importance of services to support victims of domestic abuse – which have seen additional investment in Rotherham over the last few years because of the decisions made by Labour councillors. You can watch her speech by clicking here.

Labour’s proposals won widespread backing from councillors, with the exception of Rotherham’s lone Lib Dem. Scarily, Cllr Carter voted down the proposals to prioritise vulnerable children, serving as a reminder that the progress we have made over the last few years could easily be undone. You can watch the whole debate, opened by Cllr Read’s remarks, on the webcast video above.

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