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04 February 2016

New Council Plan and budget help secure Cumbria`s future in uncertain times

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Today (Thursday 4 Feb 2016) Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet have agreed the following for recommendation to Full Council, which will be held on 18 February 2016:

  • A new Council Plan for 2016-19
  • A draft Revenue Budget 2016/17 (including a Government increase of 2% to help fund Adult Social Care and a 1.99% increase in Council Tax made by the Council), a  Medium  Term Financial  Plan 2016-2019 and  Draft  Capital  Programme 2016-2021, and
  • The Fire and Rescue Integrated Risk Management Plan

Today Cabinet also approved the following supporting strategies:

  • The Commissioning Strategy for Care and Support delivered by Adult Social Care, and
  • The Extra Care Housing Strategy.

Cabinet’s recommendations follow on from the council’s formal consultation process, which ran from the 22 October 2015 to 22 January 2016. Together the new Council Plan, the new Integrated Risk Management Plan, the new Adult Social Care Commissioning Strategy, and the Extra Care Housing Strategy will help set out the direction of travel for Cumbria County Council in the future.

Cabinet’s recommendations are as follows:

Council Plan2016-19

As part of the formal strategic consultation process the Council has also been consulting on a new Council Plan for 2016-19, including a revised set of priorities, that have been updated to reflect national and local drivers, the changing needs of the Council’s population, and the ongoing  work  across  the  Council  and  with  partners  to  improve services  and  drive  out  efficiencies. All engagement and consultation feedback received as part of the consultation process has been carefully considered and used to inform the final document.

Decision - Cabinet agreed to endorse the draft Council Plan as presented and recommend it to Full Council on 18 February

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP)

The production of an Integrated Risk Management Plan is a statutory requirement with the purpose of:

  • identifying  existing  and  potential  risks  to  the  community  within  the authority area
  • evaluating  the  effectiveness  of  current  preventative  and  response arrangements
  • identifying  opportunities  for  improvement  and  determine  policies  and standards for prevention and intervention
  • determining resource requirements to meet these policies and standards

This plan together with its associated action plan has attracted the most public interest in this year’s consultation process. As such a number of events have been organised which allowed members of the public to question officers from the service about the proposals.  There were also a number of drop in sessions in  the  affected  station areas and of  particular  note  was  a  public  meeting  in  Arnside  which  was attended  by  approximately  200  people. Here strong views on the proposals were  shared by attendees.  Responses from both the RFU and FBU have also been received. The  consultation  response  rates  were  relatively  low  in  regard  to  the draft  IRMP  document,  however  by  contrast  there  were  approaching 300  responses  concerned  with  the  draft  action  plan that proposed the closure of 5 stations. Responses have also taken the form of letters of concern, from the public, parish and town councils, petitions, MPs and questions asked in both District Council Chambers and in Local Committees.

Decision - Cabinet agree to endorse the draft IRMP 2016-20 as presented for recommendation to Council. Cabinet also took the decision not to endorse the draft Action Plan for 16/17 as presented for recommendation to Council, and as a consequence, did not recommend the implementation of the associated savings to the Fire and Rescue Service budget that would have come from the closure of the following fire stations; Arnside, Frizington, Lazonby, Staveley and  the removal of a second pump at Maryport.

Commissioning Strategy for Care and Support Delivered by Adult Social Care

The Strategy proposes  a  new  model  of  care  in  Cumbria  that  means people  will  be  supported  earlier,  allowing  them  to  make  the  most  of their health and independence, and to avoid recourse to high-level care for as long as possible. It works on three main area’s;

    • To reduce and divert demand.
    • To promote independence, supported by reablement, recovery, rehabilitation,  equipment  and  technology  for  people  who  do  need services.
    • To strengthen services for those with the most complex needs by working proactively with the NHS to plan for and meet needs

All engagement and consultation feedback received has been considered and has informed the Commissioning Strategy, alongside the Council Plan and the draft budget and Medium Term Financial Plan. The consultation and engagement process has also involved service users and their carers’, service providers, the third sector, partner commissioners and key stakeholders. Of particular note was an engagement  meeting with Cumbrian disability organisations/forums on Monday 11 January 2016, hosted by the Cumbria CVS.

Decision - Cabinet approved the new Commissioning Strategy for Care and Support as delivered by Adult Social Care (2016 - 2020)  


Extra Care Housing Strategy

The Strategy sets out the commissioning intentions in respect of Extra CARE Housing that will support delivery of the strategic actions in Cumbria’s Commissioning Strategy for Care and Support delivered by Adult Social Care (2016-2020). These are:

    • Increasing the  supply  of  Extra  Care  and  other  supported housing.
    • Increasing  the  use  of  ‘support  at  home’  services  for  Older People with lower-level eligible needs.
    • A reduction in overall number of placements of Older People in  residential  and  nursing  care,  with  priority  given  to  people with high-level needs.

Decision - Cabinet approved the Extra Care Housing and Supported Living Strategy 2016-2025.


Draft Revenue Budget 2016/17 including changes to Council Tax

Since 2011 the Cumbria County Council has already identified £153 million in savings. But as the government continues to reduce the funding it provides, as part of its efforts to balance the nation’s book, further savings of another £76 million are now required over the next three years (2016 - 2019) to help bridge the funding gap.

For Cumbria County Council the reduction in central government grant funding, at a time of rising demand for services, will continue to be the key challenge facing the organisation. This presents challenges in a rural, sparsely populated county where the majority of its residents are over 60.  

The Governments in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October 2015 set out an additional flexibility for Councils who have responsibilities for Adult Social Care, (which in Cumbria, is the County Council), to raise further local revenue from Council Tax, by increasing  Council  Tax  by  ‘up  to’  an  additional  2%  to  be  spent  entirely  on  adult social care.

Decision(s) -

  • Cabinet recommend to Full Council that the Government’s 2% adult social care  precept  for 2016/17 is applied to help meet its continuing and significant responsibilities in this area. The Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) assumes  this  2%  precept  is  agreed  every  year  for  the  next three years.
  • Cabinet recommend to Full Council that a general Council Tax increase of 1.99% for 2016/17 is applied.
  • Given the decision to recommend the Adult Social Care  precept  of 2%  and  the  general  Council  Tax  increase  of  1.99%  Cabinet also recommending the following to Full Council:-
    1. A draft  Net  Revenue  Budget  Requirement  for  2016/17  of £372.066m
    2. A new  Council  Tax  income requirement  for  2016/17  of  £200.939m  which would result in the following increases for each property band as follows

Cllr Patricia Bell, Deputy Leader of Cumbria County Council and Cabinet member responsible for finance says

“This year our budget consultation has been about strategies for the future and how we can deliver our statutory services in a drastically different way within the budgets available.  A process within which there have been no easy decisions. This budget has been finalised over the past couple of months during which Cumbria was hit by widespread and repeated flooding leaving the county with an estimated repair bill of £465 million pounds with £257 million of this in respect of infrastructure damage.  Today’s recommendation to full Council from Cabinet goes forward without knowing how much financial support the Government will be giving us and as anyone setting their household budget knows, in order to live within your means, you need to have confidence in the income you are expecting to receive.

So far we have made our savings by reshaping the council; changing how we do business internally as well as a significant amount that has come from working more effectively with our partners and communities. Even with this we still face an extremely tough and challenging time as a result of Government cuts. We are forced into raising a 2% Adult Social Care Precept because the Government has reduced the Revenue Support Grant.  Raising money locally for adult social care is probably the first of a succession of responsibilities we will see pass from central to local government in this parliament.  Although personally I think this is not the baton of responsibility, but rather that of debt.

We have a legal duty to balance our books and we must live within our means.  The journey ahead will be difficult but despite this we have actively embraced the change, taken control of our future and despite the tough economic times which the council continues to face, we remain committed to older and disabled people, vulnerable children and others. People who could not manage without the services and support of the council.”

Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet have agreed the following for recommendation to Full Council: