Staffordshire County Council has reached a balanced budget despite a warning that the savings involved compromise its medium-term goals.
It has had to close a £35m forecasted shortfall for the next financial year. The county will set a 2.95% increase in its council tax precept.
A report to full council by Rob Salmon, deputy director of finance, noted Staffordshire was “spending a record amount on social care [and] we must make some extremely difficult decisions about what we can continue to fund”.
While the budget was balanced it had for the first time been impossible to meet “hallmarks of best practice” – such as avoiding short term fixes and maintaining stability – “without either a significant increase in resources available or a significant reduction in the services offered to citizens of Staffordshire”.
Mr Salmon said the shortfall meant “there is a necessary short-term focus in delivering the savings identified in 2019-20 which risks compromising the medium-term focus on our priority outcomes.
“Nevertheless, the shortfall in funding available to the council means that such proposals have had to be included to ensure that the council lives within its means.”
Leader Philip Atkins (Con) said: “We successfully secured one-off funding from government for highways and social care to help ease immediate pressures, but we have made it clear that a long-term national solution for funding care must be urgently addressed and we will continue to work with our MPs to press the government on this.”
He added: “In order to support a growing ageing population, increasingly we will all have to do more and pay a little more to continue to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s past president Andy Burns lost his job as Staffordshire’s director of finance and resources last November CC as the county made cuts to close the £35m budget shortfall.