Front of the Civic Centre in Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire

EXCLUSIVE: Council calls for crunch talks with government over plans to tackle £25m budget shortfall 

2 mins read

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has called for urgent financial talks with the Government after revealing it’s heading towards a £25 million budget shortfall next year. 

Last week, the authority announced that it is trying to deal with a £8.5 million funding gap for the current financial year (2023/24). However, based on current trajectories, escalating costs and projected money from central government, the council expects the deficit to be around three times that in 2024/25. 

Leaders at the council say they have a plan to try and alleviate some of the huge costs, partly based on a new proactive approach to protecting vulnerable children and adults in social care, but will still need more money from the government to attempt to balance the books.    

Council Leader Jane Ashworth said: “We are in a very difficult and challenging position. We are doing everything possible to mitigate for the current £8.5 million shortfall without impacting on the delivery of statutory services. 

“So, balancing the books will require some very tough decisions, which will be made even more difficult if there is a further increase in social care demand. 

“But we are even more concerned about next year. At this moment it appears we are £25 million short for 2024/25. That is a huge amount of money and we are doing everything in our power to try and deal with it. 

“Part of the issue is that real spending power for the authority is down £95 million on 10 years ago – that is about a 30 per cent reduction. 

“That’s because the amount of money we get from Central Government as part of our annual settlement has not risen.  

“So we need to sit down with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove to negotiate a fresh deal. We’ve called for an urgent meeting and are now waiting for his reply.”  

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Jane Ashworth.

Jane, pictured above, added: “We are not just going to turn up with a begging bowl. For instance, we have a plan in place to deal with one of the biggest costs we face – protecting vulnerable children.  

“Over the last eight years there has been a reduction in investment in early health and preventative services, which has meant we don’t intervene early enough and more children end up in care. 

“We know that children thrive best at home with safe families and that’s what we need to make our absolute priority. It’s better for the community and our budget to do that. 

“We also need to stop putting as many children into private sector provision because when a child has complex needs it can cost thousands a week. So our aim is to grow our in-house provision to keep the Stoke pound in Stoke-on-Trent. 

“Everything points to a need to pivot to investment in early help both from a child wellbeing point of view and from a budget point of view – so that is what we are going to do.” 

Other areas being looked at are a different approach to adult social care – which currently costs the council £204 million a year – and ensuring the authority gets the best value from buildings, offices and land it owns – whether that’s retaining, repurposing or selling off. 

Jane added: “I want to be clear: the threshold and quality of care will not change – vulnerable adults and children will be safe on our watch – but the way we approach that care will be more preventative and cost effective.”  

In the meantime, the council leader has called on businesses to work with them to grow the city’s economy. 

She added: “The worst thing we can do is sit on our hands and do nothing. We have to constantly look to drive the city’s economy forward and we call on businesses of all shape and size to help us in that ambition.”  

Nigel Pye

Experienced journalist with a 30-year career in the newspaper and PR industry and a proven record for breaking stories for the national and international press. Nigel is the Editor of Daily Focus and Head of Creative at i-creation. Other work includes scriptwriting, magazine and video production, crisis communications and TV and radio broadcasts.

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