Local government is undergoing a profound change. We will be directly responsible for fewer services. Instead we will act as champion for the city, bringing together partners to access new resources to deliver jointly and championing the city at national and international levels.
Our financial challenges
Newcastle has faced cuts that are unfair and disproportionate, more than twice the national average since 2010. Between then and 2017, a combination of Government grant cuts and unfunded cost pressures have seen a cumulative £254 million cut from our budget. We have done well to manage these cuts so far but people have felt the impact on the services we deliver.
Demand for our services continues to rise. The number of vulnerable adults (for example frail elderly people or those with learning disabilities) and vulnerable children (for example, those at risk of domestic violence, harm or neglect) are all increasing. This is alongside other cost pressures such as the £17 million cost of implementing the Living Wage.
These unfunded cost pressures will see the gap in our funding increase to £283 million by 2020.
Government intends to abolish the core grant to councils completely. From 2020 onwards, we will be almost entirely reliant on Council Tax and retained business rates to fund our services. This is in the context of the Government's welfare reforms which are estimated to reduce working age benefits in Newcastle by £129 million by the end of 2022-23.
Our statutory duties
Local authorities are legally bound to deliver or commission a vast range of services and functions which are set out in numerous Acts of Parliament. We must continue to deliver these despite our financial challenges.
We have over 2,000 duties. Key legal responsibilities are listed below in terms of people, place and resources (how we structure our services):
- Improving the wellbeing of under 5-year olds, providing integrated early-years service. Assessing the provision of child care and advice and training to providers.
- Safeguarding and protecting of children including promoting welfare, looking after the most vulnerable, fostering and adoption, providing short breaks to assist carers of disabled children.
- Ensuing there is sufficient education provision available including that for pupils with special educational needs, admissions, pupil referral units, school meals, school transport for those eligible.
- Keeping in touch with care leavers and providing financial assistance and advocacy services.
- Making sure that people who live in their area receive services that prevent their care needs from becoming more serious, or delay the impact of their needs, can get the information and advice they need to make good decisions about care and support and have a range of provision of high quality, appropriate services to choose from.
- Responsible for improving the health of their local population and for public health services including most sexual health services and services aimed at reducing drug and alcohol misuse.
- Preventing and relieving all residents' risk of homelessness.
- Housing, including periodically reviewing needs and how we manage the Housing Revenue Account.
- Establishing a Community Safety Partnership and developing a community safety strategy.
- Environmental and regulatory, including trading standards, inspection and enforcement, product safety, environmental protection.
- Preservation and access to monuments and listed buildings.
- Licensing, including granting permits, maintaining registers, covering thing such as gambling, alcohol, food safety and hackney carriages.
- Biodiversity, including protection of wildlife and pest control.
- Highways, including the providing and repairing rights of ways, maintaining highways and ensuring works are carried out safety.
- Preparing a Local Transport Plan and ensuring road safety, proving traffic management and managing parking.
- Collecting and disposing of waste.
- Registration of births, deaths and marriages and licensing premises and venues.
- Providing a comprehensive and efficient library service.
- Producing annual accounts and setting a balanced budget.
- Awarding housing benefit to eligible residents and collecting council tax and business rates.
- How we recruit and employ our staff.
- How we commission and procure supplies and services.
- Responding to Freedom of Information requests.