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Extra Money for Borough's Priorities

Detailed proposals have been unveiled which show how the Borough Council is to invest an additional £250,000 into what local people have said is important to them.

The Borough Growth Fund was launched in this financial year and has resulted in £304,000 being used to pay for a series of initiatives which support the Council Plan including new CCTV cameras in the town centre, upgrading car parking machines and electricity for market stalls.

Now, Council Leader Simon Tagg has announced a further £250,000 is to be put into the fund in 2020-21. At Cabinet today the Leader said: “The first year of the fund has proved really successful and has helped us put in place the building blocks which are allowing us to deliver on the priorities that residents have told us about. We are now going to build on those successes.

“The fund will continue to be used to provide pump-priming investment in initiatives that are forecast to generate on-going revenue savings through reducing the costs of service delivery or through the generation of additional income. We are targeting money at areas that we think will make a significant and positive impact for our residents and businesses.”

The money will be split between four areas:-

  • £100,000 council modernisation – embedding digitalisation across all services; introducing artificial intelligence and robotics; develop staff skills and invest in apprenticeship opportunities.
  • £50,000 building financial sustainability - the Council’s recently appointed Executive Director for Commercial Development and Economic Growth will lead on efforts to “embrace commercial working practices to reduce costs and generate income.” 
  • £50,000 recycling and climate change – as well as rolling out a new recycling service, the Council will also plant more trees as part of a borough-wide Carbon Capture Parks initiative and also makes bids for funding in the next round of the Government’s Urban Tree Challenge and Woodland Carbon Guarantee.
  • £50,000 town centres – this will be used to support the Town Deal bids for Newcastle and Kidsgrove as well as the Future High Streets Fund bid for Newcastle town centre. It will also support rejuvenation of Newcastle market and bring empty council properties back into use.

Cllr. Tagg said: “We have taken some bold and inventive steps since we took over the Council and using our Borough Growth Fund in this way will allow us to continue along that path with a view to delivering on the priorities which are outlined in the Council Plan.

“We carried out a consultation with the public on the budget and the majority of people said town centre regeneration; refuse collection and recycling; parks, playgrounds and open spaces as well as street cleaning were most important to them. We have taken note of that feedback – and the views of other key stakeholders – and this is clearly reflected in the spending proposals we are putting forward for the year ahead.”

Details of how the fund will be utilised were included at a meeting of Cabinet where councillors considered Council Tax levels for 2020-21. These show that the Borough Council’s share of bills for the year ahead will rise by less than 10p per week for the vast majority of residents.

Properties in tax bands A, B and C – which make up 70 per cent of all households in Newcastle-under-Lyme – will pay an additional eight, nine and 10 pence each week if the Cabinet proposals are agreed at Full Council later this month.

A 2.5 per cent rise in the Borough Council’s share of Council Tax bills is below the 2.99 per cent rises implemented over recent years. 

The Council faces a “gap” of £1,249,000 in 2020/21 between what it needs to spend and the finance it has available.

A range of measures have been put forward to bridge the gap while at the same time avoiding redundancies, investing in services and the Borough Growth Fund as well as keeping the borough’s share of any Council Tax rise down to just a few pence a week for most people.

Action planned for 2020/21 to tackle the budget gap include £135,000 in extra income; £495,000 from staffing-related measures including a restructure in Revenues and Benefits and Customer Services; £590,000 from a growth in the Business Rates Collection Fund and a growth in Council Tax incomes because more homes have been built.

As well as bridging the financial gap for 2020/21, the Council faces further budgetary pressures in the four years to come with the authority’s Medium Term Financial Strategy pointing to required savings of £1,367,000 in 2021/21, another £1,115,000 the year after, £1,106,000 in 2023/24 and £858,000 in the 12 month period following that. 

In addition to its revenue proposals, the Borough Council has also outlined what it intends to spend as part of its Capital Programme.

Between 2020/21 to 2022/23 it is proposing capital investment of £24,587,000 which includes £3,151,000 for the refurbishment of Kidsgrove sports centre; £4.7 million on improving recycling services and almost £1 million on the continued modernisation of the Borough Council.

Last updated 12 February 2020

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