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Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Arooj Shah
Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Arooj Shah
Published: Wednesday, 14th February 2024

Councillors met earlier this week to discuss the latest budget plans and proposals for the next two financial years.

As a local authority, Oldham needs to find £30m worth of savings to ensure the books balance and the increased demand from local residents who desperately need access to vital public services are continued to be met.  

Over the last few months, members and council staff have been working hard to identify areas to bridge the deficit gap, despite facing added pressure from inflation rises and the ongoing impact national crises, such as housing and social care recruitment, are having at a local level.    

In addition to these pressures, the council is continuing to bear the brunt of 13 years of central government cuts. Since the election of the coalition Government in 2010, Oldham Council has lost more than £200m of central government funding, which equates to a loss of 56% compared to the last Labour government.   

As part of the proposals for this year Council Tax is set to increase by 4.99%, including the 2% Adult Social Care precept and 2.99% for the Council’s already over-stretched core services.   

The Adult Social Care precept is money the government expects councils to take and is spent solely on funding social care. Meanwhile, the 2.99% Council Tax rise will go towards safeguarding essential services the council delivers for residents, such as caring for our most vulnerable adults and children, emptying the bins and keeping neighbourhoods safe.  

Addressing Cabinet, Leader of Oldham Council, Councillor Arooj Shah, said: “I’m not overstating the case when I say this is one of the toughest budgets that this Council has ever had to set. The vital public services we provide in Oldham are needed now more than ever. 

“Every year, more children are in need of support from social services, every year more and more older people need essential care to keep them safe and well. The national housing crisis means more and more people don’t have good quality stable homes to live in and many are becoming unable to afford their rent or mortgages so the problem will inevitably get worse. These are not local crises – they are national crises – but it’s left to local government to meet the need they create. 

“That’s why this budget process is about meeting the needs of local people, about prioritising those in the most need, those for whom council services and support are literally life and death.  

“The proposals we are bringing forward are the result of a significant amount of work looking at every service in the council to see what we can make more efficient, how we can work together with other organisations and how we can prevent future need for services.  

“We must make savings because the government has left us with no choice, but we will make them and continue to the fight for fairer funding for local government.” 

As part of the budget setting, residents, businesses and Oldham Council staff were invited to send in ideas on how the council could save money. 

The budget consultation, which closed last Friday, received over 350 responses from the public and staff. A full report will be prepared for Full Council on 28 February, where members will make a final decision on the budget.   

Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Resources, said: “There are no quick fixes or easy answers when you have to find £30m of savings, especially when our budgets have been regularly slashed by government since 2010.  

“In addition to anticipated cost pressures, we’ve had a number of unforeseen but necessary spend areas, including the increase in placements within Children’s Services and temporary accommodation for people without shelter.  

“Whilst we can’t avoid difficult decisions to make savings, it is essential that we continue to prioritise the services that our residents rely on most as well as protecting the things that really matter to local people.”

 

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