Like many individuals, families, businesses and other organisations around the country, the council has had to get to grips with one of the biggest financial challenges it's faced in recent history.
After more than a decade of dwindling funding from central government to pay for essential local services, and with consumer price inflation now running at 10.1 per cent, we have worked hard to bridge our budget gap of £6.2m for the 2023-24 financial year.
Based on our 2023-24 projections, we will receive a very small percentage of what we need from central government (about 7 per cent). As a result, we’re increasingly having to do things very differently to deliver services in new ways and bring in more income to pay for the range of services we provide.
Following the approval of our budget at full council last night (21 February), our overall budget allows us to deliver the council’s priorities and avoid significant cuts to frontline services. But crucially, it allows for continued and substantial investment in a number of key service areas as well as vital infrastructure for the city.
Aside from day-to-day spending on services, the budget makes provision for nearly £30m of investment next year (and close to £50m over the next five years) in important infrastructure projects for the city – investing in skills, redesigning areas of the city centre and supporting the local economy.
We also listened to what you told us in our budget consultation and have made sure we continue to invest heavily in the services that matter most to you – housing, environmental services and parks and open spaces. This is why we have created a new £100,000 ‘Love Norwich Fund’ for next year, to help fund initiatives to keep the city clean and also enforce against fly-tipping through new CCTV cameras in hotspot areas.
Our budget proposals for next year identified an additional £36m of investment in council housing (taking it up to a total of £182m over the next five years). This is money that goes toward maintaining and improving our 14,500 council homes as well as the money we need to build around 230 new ones.
Meanwhile, we set aside £3.1m within the capital programme to invest in environmental services and public spaces. This will help to pay for us to maintain 23 parks, 81 open spaces and 56 natural areas around the city and make 7 million waste and recycling collections a year from 144,000 households. All of this investment is on top of the £10.9m we spend annually on these areas.
We also awarded grants totalling almost £280,000 to arts and cultural organisations – an important part of our wider role within the city – money which helps to keep our city thriving and which adds so much to what Norwich can offer its residents and visitors.
With half of those responding to the council’s budget consultation supporting or strongly supporting a 2.99 per cent increase in the city council’s element of the council tax, this was taken forward and agreed last night at full council. This means people living in a Band D property will pay a total of £288.59 for the city council’s element of council tax – an increase of around 16p per week.
However, we recognise the financial challenges facing households, which is why we are one of the few councils to continue to provide up to 100 per cent relief on council tax bills for those on the lowest incomes.
The 2.99 per cent increase will generate about £320,000 additional income to help fund city council services, bringing the council’s total income from council tax to about £11m.
Alan Waters, leader of the council, said: “This year’s budget wasn’t just about identifying how to bridge our £6.2m budget gap – it was also a budget about investment.
“We’ve taken full account of the bigger picture as well as paying attention to the details. This means we’ve met the financial challenge head-on while also being able to invest in the things that really matter to the people of Norwich.”
Councillor Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for resources, added: “With our careful financial management, which isn’t just about looking one year ahead, but up to five.
“I believe the council is in a strong and positive place to meet the challenges of the next few years. And most importantly, realise the significant opportunities ahead for the city.”