Leek Post & Times
‘Council’s not exempt from the challenges presented by covid’
Funds stretched to limit by impact of coronavirus as council tax bills rise
STAFFORDSHIRE Moorlands District Council has set its budget for providing essential services at £10.4m for the coming year - despite concerns over lack of climate change funding.
This involves a council tax increase to residents of £5 (3.26%), setting Band D payments at £158.40 for 2021/22 which equates to a rise of less than ten pence per week. The district council collects council tax on behalf of the county council, the police and fire authority along with town and parish councils but only spends nine per cent of the total.
Councillor Sybil Ralphs, leader of the Conservative run council, who also has the responsibility for finance, said: “The last year has seen everyone having to cope with the challenges presented by Covid-19 – and the council is not exempt from that.
“We have faced additional costs alongside the adverse impact the pandemic has had on our finances. “We always have the very best interests of our taxpayers, and the responsibility that comes with spending public funds, at the centre of our budget setting considerations and, despite the challenging circumstances this year, this has not changed.
“Our residents and businesses have a right to expect that from us as we continue to deliver the high quality public services we all rely on.
“We have been able to keep the increase as low as possible as a result of our ongoing commitment to delivering value for money services and our prudent approach to our finances - including our strategic alliance with our partners in High Peak which has achieved budget savings for the council in excess of £8m over the last ten years.
“People can be assured that we will continue to take a proactive approach to identifying and implementing further ways to ensure we are using our resources efficiently and to best effect.”
The funding is used to provide services including affordable housing, waste and recycling, street cleaning, leisure centres, parks and playgrounds development and maintenance, support for local businesses, crime prevention activities, benefits services and elections.
However, all Labour members of the council abstained when the vote for the budget took place last week.
Speaking at the full meeting of the district council, leader of the group, Councillor Mike Gledhill said: “This is a tricky process with the cost of Covid-19, but the budget disappoints me.
“There is a lack of information regarding climate change which I am really worried about. There has to be detail. I am also worried about the underspend on disabled grants.
“Two years ago we announced a climate emergency and this was the one chance for the budget to deal with it. Our group can’t vote for this budget.”
Leader of the Independent group, Councillor Linda Malyon said her group would vote for the budget. She said: “There is a long way to go with climate change. There are lots of challenges in front of us, but I hope we can work together.” Councillor Ralphs added: “Since the onset of measures to control Covid in March last year we have worked hard to support our communities and our businesses to adapt to frequently changing circumstances.
“We have also taken on extra responsibilities including administering over £31m in grant payments to local businesses.
“All of this has been done alongside the continued, unbroken provision of the regular services that are so important to our daily lives, including waste and recycling collection and street cleaning, and the help and advice provided by our staff in customer services.”
The last year has seen everyone having to cope with the challenges presented by Covid-19 – and the council is not exempt from that
Cllr Sybil Ralphs
It will ensure anyone who needs the support services they need to recover will be able to do so Karen Bradley
DOMESTIC abuse victims and their children living in Staffordshire will be able to receive more support thanks to extra Government funding.
The extra money will help victims and their children access life-saving support in safe accommodation.
They will be able to access advocacy, counselling and therapy in safe locations, such as refuges or specialist safe accommodation, where victims and their children can go to get away from their abusers.
In total, councils across England will receive £125million. Staffordshire will receive £1,554,370.
Under a new duty, councils will be required to provide support to domestic abuse victims and their children within safe accommodation services, where needs have been identified.
It will come into force later this year with the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, with funding announced in advance so local authorities know how much they will receive for these vital services and can begin to plan.
The funding is part of a wider package of support for victims of rape anddomesticabuse,witha£40million funding boost for victim support services announced on February 1, building on the £76million pledged in May 2020 to ensure services including refuges, helplines and counselling remain accessible throughout the pandemic.
In January 2021, the government also launched the “Ask for ANI” codeword scheme, which provides victims of domestic abuse access to immediate help from the police or other support services from their local pharmacy.
Staffordshire Moorlands MP Karen Bradley said: “The £1,554,370 announced for Staffordshire will ensure that anyone who needs to access safe accommodation and the support services they need to recover and rebuild their lives will be able to do so, and is part of a wider package of support we have put in place for victims of rape and domestic abuse.
“In taking another big step towards helping break the cycle of domestic abuse and protecting some of the most vulnerable in our society, we are transforming our response to victims and will help them move forward with their lives.” Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes, said: “Domestic abuse is a heinous crime which threatens the lives of victims in their own homes, where they should feel safe.
“So it’s right that we’re giving victims support in safe accommodation and providing councils with money to deliver essential services that will help them and their children rebuild their lives. This is part of a long-term strategy to provide broader support for domestic abuse victims both in safe accommodation like refuges and in their homes.”