Members of Southampton City Council voted at February’s meeting of the full council to approve a ‘bold’ new budget with plans to invest almost £1bn by 2025, aiming to unleash the city’s potential and meet the needs of residents.
The Budget is organised into two distinct components: People – Delivering vital everyday services – and Place – Capital investments for the future. It also sets out the council’s plans to finance the hundreds of services in place for Southampton residents, from bin collections and fixing potholes, to community action in aid of the most vulnerable members of society. The council tax bill will remain largely unchanged for this financial year, however to help meet the rising demand to care for vulnerable adults, there is a 2% increase in the adult social care rates for 2020/21. This will translate to an extra 59p a week on the council tax bill for a Band D property, as defined by Southampton City Council. Hampshire Police and Hampshire Fire & Rescue will decide on their own share of council tax bills.
Priority areas for investment this year include:
- £0.3m for the Feed the Future programme which provides free healthy foods and holiday clubs at schools to tackle child hunger
- £0.5m for additional street cleaning and enforcement measures
- £0.3m to support Southampton’s bid for UK City of Culture 2025
- £32.9m for a new public service hub at Bitterne Precinct – including a state-of-the art leisure centre, library and other health services
- £16.9m for the refurbishment of the Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre to train the next generation of athletes
- £21m to fund the Green City Delivery plan to tackle the Climate Emergency, reduce air pollution and become a carbon-neutral council area by 2030 at the latest
- £1.2m to improve 15 city playparks and open spaces for children and families
- £2.5m extra invested over the next five years for the improvement of pavements and pedestrian areas
- £250m investment in council housing by 2024/25, ensuring housing is safe, energy efficient, and high quality
The budget was compiled based on feedback from residents following an official consultation process which ran from October 2019 to January 2020:
- 633 people responded to the consultation
- 74% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with proposals on priority investment areas. These included meeting the commitments of the Green City Charter; tackling child hunger; investing in transport; bidding to become the City of Culture 2025; and investing in adult social care to help the most vulnerable in the community
- 78% either agreed or strongly agreed with proposals to make efficiencies by streamlining management, reducing the cost of IT and other measures
Christopher Hammond, Labour Councillor for Woolston & Leader of Southampton City Council, commented:
We are approaching our budget differently this year and setting a five year plan to make sure Southampton is a greener, fairer and healthier city. It’s not been easy to balance the books, when our funding from Government has reduced significantly over the last eight years, leading to £151m of budget reductions. We’ve had to make difficult decisions and do more with less in the face of rising demand for our services, particularly social care.
Southampton is a great city and we’re entering a new decade. The best way forward is to invest, helping the city grow and its people thrive. This bold new budget sets out almost £1bn worth of investments for a better future.
There are some exciting projects in the pipeline over the next five years. Projects like the Bitterne Hub, our Green City Delivery plan, the Outdoor Sports Centre, and expanding our Feed the Future programme to tackle the injustice of child hunger in our city. This year’s budget will enable us to tackle the big challenges and plan for the future whilst ensuring we get the basics right.
Through careful management of public money, we’re able to propose a freeze on core council tax for residents in 2020/21. In the absence of any new plan for funding adult social care from central government, it is necessary to propose a small rise of 2% in the adult social care precept to help us meet demand from residents for these vital services for vulnerable people.
Cllr Hammond also commented in a separate statement that he ‘looks forward to working with [ordinary citizens]to make sure that these projects (and more) are delivered for the people of Southampton‘.