Our proposed budget for 2022/23
Protecting vital services such as social care and youth work, rewarding the carers who supported us through the pandemic and continuing our investment in cleaning up our borough's streets are at the heart of Oldham Council's proposals to balance next year's budget.
Local Government funding has never been more difficult. More than a decade of cuts in Government funding have taken their toll, while demand for the Council's services have risen sharply - in part due to the Covid pandemic.
Our proposed budget for 2022/23 protects essential services for vulnerable adults and children while reflecting the challenges we face as a borough.
We know that the pandemic has been particularly hard for the lowest paid workers in Oldham, with rising energy and food costs. That's why this year, despite the harsh financial climate we find ourselves in we are using 1% of this year’s proposed Council Tax rise to pay the Foundation Living Wage to all of our carers, whether directly employed or in the care supply chain.
This will benefit thousands of local people, who will see their wages rise from £9.50 an hour to £9.90. The rise will mean an extra £16 a week in a care worker’s pocket – or a huge £768 a year.
Councillor Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “Central Government has repeatedly cut our budget over the last 10 years, despite increased demand for essential services. After over a decade of austerity, we are again having to make cuts to our budget, this year totalling £6m, and are left with no other choice but to meet the rising cost of continuing to deliver vital services, like caring for the elderly.
"When the Government calculates how much money each year to allocate local authorities, it assumes that we will increase Council Tax by the maximum amount - making it impossible to do anything but. If we don't do this, we leave a bigger hole in Council's budget, meaning we would have to provide less, or strip back the essential services our communities rely on and deserve.
"In raising Council Tax, it's vital that we do right by carers and make special provision in this budget to finally pay them the Foundation Living Wage. Our one-year increased investment in clean streets - the Don't Trash Oldham campaign - will also be maintained in the next financial year, making good on our promise to deliver the services you told us, through the Big Oldham Conversation and on the doorsteps, that you wanted to see.
"We can’t forget that the last two years have been incredibly tough for many Oldhamers. We want to recognise the impact Covid has had in the borough, including on young people. We have chosen not to take a previously-agreed planned reduction in funding for Mahdlo, and will be increasing funding in youth activities by a further £80k - things we know make a real difference to the lives of young people and their families."
Paying the Foundation Living Wage, will be putting extra money into Oldhamers' pockets, making a huge difference to thousands of the lowest-paid workers in our community - an estimated 4,300 of whom are in the care sector.
Women make up 85 percent of the care workforce with an estimated 75 percent having families. It will also have a huge knock-on positive impact for our local economy.
Lisa Whittaker, a Carer working at Oakdene Care Home in Lees, said: “An extra £768 a year will mean not having to scrimp and save as much when my children need something.
“Carers generally live hand to mouth so this increase in pay is definitely a positive thing and makes us feel appreciated.”
This year we are proposing a Council Tax increase of 3.99%, including the 2% Adult Social Care precept and 1.99% for our stretched core services. The average Oldham household will pay around 88p more a week.
The Adult Social Care precept is money the Government expects us to take, and is spent solely on funding social care. Meanwhile, the 1.99% Council Tax rise will pay for the council's core services such as street cleaning, highways, youth work and all the other services the council delivers for residents and businesses, as well as the wage increase for our lowest-paid workers.
Those lowest-paid workers currently receive the Minimum Wage (the Government's minimum wage for people aged under 23) or the National Living Wage (the legal minimum for those aged 23 and over). We will now be increasing their pay to the Foundation Living Wage of £9.90 per hour - the amount calculated by the Living Wage Foundation as what employees and their families need to live.
Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: "We are delighted to hear of Oldham Council’s move to uplift over 4,300 frontline care staff in Oldham.
"Over the past two years, adult care workers have been instrumental in keeping our society healthy and functional, and we welcome Oldham Council’s move to uplift them to £9.90 an hour.
"The extra £768 a year will make a huge difference for workers, as they face rising costs of living. We call upon all businesses who are able to do so to consider joining Oldham Council, and accrediting with the Living Wage Foundation."
Our budget proposals will go to the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 14 February before being debated by full council on Wednesday 2 March, when the council’s budget for 2022/23 will be set.
Have your say on this year’s budget proposals and read in full at: www.oldham.gov.uk/budget