Chiefs ask council taxpayers what their priorities are for 2021 as they face maximum rise in bills

Residents, businesses and community groups on Wearside are being asked for their views on proposals for the next city council budget.

Thursday, 31st December 2020, 6:00 am
Deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, Cllr Paul Stewart, said the authority has had to make 'unprecedented' cuts in recent years, and now covid had made challenges even greater.

Sunderland City Council, which provides more than 600 services to more than 277,000 residents, is having to save a further £14million next year on top of the £315million it has already removed from budgets since 2010.

The proposed council tax rise includes a precept to help pay for adult social care which supports older and vulnerable people.

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Sunderland City Council, like other authorities, has been left picking up the pieces as the pandemic continues to bite deep into budgets

If approved, the council tax increase would see the majority of households in Sunderland pay less than £1 a week extra next year for city services.

The council continues to face the challenges of Covid-19, increasing demand for services such as adult social care, and cost pressures on services because of inflation.

Saving and spending

Reviews are continuing for more service efficiencies and the council is considering the use of its reserves to help balance the next budget.

In addition, a major capital investment programme to bring in more new homes, jobs, businesses and improve infrastructure is also being proposed.

Ahead of final decisions on the 2021/22 budget, council chiefs are urging the public to share their views on the budget proposals in an online survey.

Councillor Paul Stewart, deputy leader of the council, said: “Over the past two years we have asked detailed questions about a range of council services through our Let’s Talk resident engagement campaign.

“This has looked at what is important to you in Sunderland and your views about core council services. Thank you if you have participated in these engagement activities.

“We have also had discussions with partners and businesses about taking the city forward and what priorities should be.

“The council has had to make unprecedented budget cuts in recent years, as more than £315million has been taken out of Sunderland under Government austerity programmes.

“The council continues to face significant pressures as a result of reduced Government funding, inflation on our costs and increasing demand for our services.

“The challenge is even greater now as we all deal with the impact of Covid-19.”

Cllr Stewart added: “Even with these cuts and extra income from the proposed council tax increase of 5%, the revenue budget will still not be balanced.

“This requires us to use approximately £8.1million of financial reserves to balance our books.

“These reserves have been built up over recent years to give us this flexibility in managing our finances.

“However, it is important to remember that these reserves can only be used once so we can’t rely on them every year. Please give us your views.”

Consultation runs to Thursday, January 14 and will help inform final proposals at the February cabinet meeting before the budget is considered by full council in March.

The budget survey can be accessed online here: www.sunderland.gov.uk/letstalkbudget

Residents needing support to complete the survey or requesting a paper copy should contact the council by email at [email protected]

All data collected from the survey is anonymous and not shared outside of the council.

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