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Council budget approved

South Tyneside Council has agreed its budget for 2017/18.

Earlier this month Council Leaders revealed that demand pressures in adult social care are placing further strain on the Council's already stretched budget.

Despite its financial pressures, South Tyneside Council is committed to regeneration, economic growth and job creation in the Borough.

New research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has confirmed that South Tyneside is the third hardest hit council in the country. However, in the face of these challenges, the Council has shown resilience and innovation.

Despite delivering £126m of efficiencies over the last seven years the council is being hit with a further financial blow and must find another £19m in 17/18 and even more in future years.

Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council said: "Adult social care is at a tipping point in this country. We are now facing the double dilemma of a growing elderly population and chronic underfunding from Central Government.

"Whilst the Council has had a total overhaul over the last seven years; reshaping our services, making efficiencies wherever we can, changing the way we deliver those services - not all of which have been palatable, we now face a greater challenge. To protect the most vulnerable in our society with the dignity and respect they deserve."

The council agreed a 4.95 per cent council tax rise in 17/18 which equates to 87p for Band A households, into which the majority of households fall. This is made up of a 1.95 per cent council tax increase and a 3 per cent adult social care levy.

Instead of addressing the funding gap in adult social care nationally, the Government has permitted councils to add a 3 per cent increase in council tax bills specifically for adult social care. Despite the Council proposing such an increase in South Tyneside to help mitigate the impact of the Government grant reductions it is clear that the money raised goes nowhere to sufficiently cover demand pressures - which continue to grow.

As with many areas of the country, South Tyneside is facing significant demographic pressures. The number of residents over 85 years old is expected to double in the next 20 years. This places huge pressure upon services such as adult social care especially as Government funding continues to be reduced.

Cllr Malcolm continued: "The crisis in adult social care funding is set to be with us for some time to come. In the absence of a fair funding solution to this crisis nationally, we are in the unfortunate position of having to raise council tax further to help plug the gap. In areas such as South Tyneside where tax bands tend to be lower than average, this effectively means we are asking more from already economically disadvantaged people to help poorer people.

"Since 2010 we have radically changed our customs and practices - modernising how the Council operates so it delivers more help for those who need it most.  We now have almost 40 per cent less to spend on helping the people of South Tyneside to realise their ambitions.

"Despite this we believe this budget delivers the best possible deal for the people of South Tyneside in the circumstances we face. Furthermore we continue our commitment to creating jobs and prosperity across the Borough. Our focus on regeneration is unwavering. Our work on the International Manufacturing Park, the region's largest economic growth project continues at pace to create more than 5,200 jobs, we are seeking a development partner for the Holborn riverside development and our South Shields 365 programme will see a new transport interchange on site by 2018.

"We will continue to do our best for the Borough with the unfair hand we have been dealt since 2010."

This year's budget includes increased income generation through new and existing services, delivering greater value for money on external contracts, integrating services to support vulnerable families, reducing the Council's carbon footprint and sharing services with other partners. Moving forward the council is continuing to review its services to determine the shape and scope of services over the coming years.

South Tyneside Council consulted with key partners, voluntary and community groups and residents to ensure that the budget for 2017/8 delivers the best outcomes for the Borough as a whole.

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