The town hall was preparing to make £21m of cuts in the next financial year which still left a £6m shortfall in the budget. But government announcements over council funding made late last year, put the budget in a better position.
Many of the cuts – including funding for New Years’ Eve fireworks displays and Christmas lights switch-on events – were removed from the final budget. But council-funded bonfire night celebrations across the city are still cancelled.
The biggest cuts over the next three years will be to the adult social care and children and education services departments which must save £20m in total.
But along with helping the homeless, these services still account for most of the spending in the £736m revenue budget which was passed on Friday (March 3).
Presenting the proposals in a town hall speech, Labour councillor Rabnawaz Akbar said that setting the budget for next year has been a ‘rollercoaster ride’. He said: “This is a budget that reflects Manchester Labour values – a budget which puts Manchester people at its heart.
“It is a responsible budget that protects our residents from the worst impacts of the cost-of-living crisis now. But by prudently using our resources, it takes a longer-term view which allows us to sustain essential services we all rely on, while continuing to move forward as a cleaner, greener, more liveable and fairer city.
“We are Manchester so we have bold ambitions. But we don’t forget the importance of getting the basics right and working with our communities to ensure they can share in the city’s success.”
The executive member for finance told councillors that the town hall has been conscious of the hardship faced during the cost of living crisis when setting the budget. That is why an extra £5.5m of ‘targeted support’ for the most vulnerable residents and voluntary groups helping them has been included.
However, the Lib Dems called for the local authority to go further by increasing the maximum council tax discount for the poorest Mancunians to 85 pc. They also proposed investing an extra £1m into road, pavement and gully repairs.
But the Lib Dems’ budget amendment was rejected after council leader Bev Craig argued that this was not the best way of helping those who need it most. The Greens – who now lead the opposition with their three councillors – did not put forward any amendments, supporting the budget, but arguing that ‘radical change’ is needed from the ruling Labour group as well as the government.
Coun Craig, who has led the Labour-run council for 15 months now, described the budget as ‘balanced’ and ‘prudent’, saying it protects the most vulnerable while planning for the future. However, she said the local authority would be able to do much more had its spending power not been cut by £428m a year.
More than half of Manchester council’s £736.2m revenue budget will go on helping those most in need. Departments responsible for care and support for adults, children and people facing homelessness make up 60 pc of spending.
This includes care for older and people with disabilities in their own homes or in other types of accommodation such as nursing homes. The costs of caring for children who are looked after by the local authority is also covered by this.
The latest budget includes an extra £26.4m for adult social care which local authority leaders hope will ease some of the pressures on the NHS by helping to discharge people from hospitals faster. It also includes a £4m increase in the homelessness service budget and a £3.3m investment in children’s services.
Some of this extra money will be invested in prevention initiatives such as helping people before they become homeless or identifying issues before families face a crisis. It is hoped this will save the council cash in the future.
The second biggest slice – 15 pc – goes on neighbourhood services such as bin collections, maintaining roads and pavements and running parks, libraries and leisure centres. Next year, an extra £1.5m of funding will be spent on cleaning streets and a £700,000 fund for small, but urgent improvements – such as fixing broken swings and replacing litter bins – is also included in the budget.
Around £102.7m is allocated for growth and development – which helps attract investment and jobs and get much-needed homes including affordable homes built – together with a range of behind-the-scenes services. The rest – around 11 pc – is spent on corporate budgets which go towards public transport and building projects and cover unexpected costs to the council during the year.
However, the council will still need to make £15.3m of savings in 2023/24. No services are set to be reduced, but more income will have to be generated.
Around £17m of the council’s reserves will also be used to balance the budget. The town hall is expecting to collect almost £218m in council tax too next year.
It comes as council tax increases by 4.99 pc which is made up of a 2.99 pc general increase plus a 2 pc precept which is ringfenced for adult social care. This means Band A households – which make up most of properties in city – will pay an extra £50 a year on top of any Greater Manchester-wide charges.
Council housing tenants will also face a 7 pc rise in rent from April. Council leader Bev Craig said: “The council provides a wide range of services that are used by everybody in the city, whether their lives are going well or they are finding things a bit more difficult and need some extra support.
“We are acutely aware of the cost of living crisis which is why we are providing a vital helping hand to those who need it the most while continuing to invest in the services which help the city to thrive and make it a great place to live in.”