Setting out our priorities for 2020

It seems like a distant memory now, but I hope everyone had an enjoyable break over the Christmas and New Year period and got the chance to spend some time with friends and family. And for those of you who made New Year’s resolutions, I hope they are still going well. I’d also like to pay tribute to those who remained on duty over the festive period. That includes the engineers on the Lichfield Southern Bypass who worked round the clock from Christmas Eve until the 28th to install a new rail bridge, with minimal disruption to rail passengers.

It’s been a busy January so far and last week I met with colleagues to set out our budget and priorities for the year ahead.  And, with a new Government in place, I’m excited about the future and about how we can make Staffordshire an even better place to live in, work in and to visit.

I have written about the ever-growing demands on caring for our elderly and increased pressures on children’s services in numerous posts. But they still remain our biggest challenges.

Ten years ago we were spending around £200 million per year on care to help support the most vulnerable in our communities, but this year we will be spending a record £320 million.

We have been swift to recognise the challenge though, and have had plans in place to reduce costs to help manage the growing pressures. This all means we can live within our means, deliver a balanced budget and still protect everyone eligible to receive care next year.

In addition to the essential spend on care, we will also be investing more than £120m on important capital projects like schools and business sites, an extra £8.1m in helping to keep more children out of care, and £650,000 on climate change projects.

To help meet the increasing pressures and costs, particularly around care, and with national Government funding continuing to fall, council tax will rise by 3.95 percent, which includes a 2 percent levy to help towards the care bill. This is still amongst the lowest rate in the country and works out at less than £1 per week on the average bill for a Band D Property.

As we start 2020, I remain incredibly optimistic about how much we can still achieve with partners and our communities for the benefit of Staffordshire families.

Be assured, our work to create even more better paid jobs for people, protect the most vulnerable, and give everyone the best shot at living as healthy, rewarding and independent a life as possible will remain our focus.

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