Madam Mayor – for the last three years I’ve stood before you, on behalf of the Labour Administration, and talked about how the city’s public services have been badly affected by austerity.
I don’t feel the need to do that again. I believe it’s how we respond to our current situation, together, that’s more important.
This evening, my Labour colleagues and I will talk about this administration’s vision, values and priorities. We’ll talk about how this Council is working systematically and pragmatically to address the challenges it faces. And we’ll talk about our shared determination to make Derby a safe, strong and ambitious city – a better place to live, work and visit.
Last year, we set a three year budget and Council Plan that put the authority on a firm course to weather the challenges ahead.
This budget is optimistic about our city’s future – it enshrines this administration’s commitment to cleaner streets, a vibrant cultural offer and protecting our most vulnerable people.
It’s a budget that shows our residents and employees that there’s light at the end of the tunnel after seven years of cuts.
And it’s a budget that looks beyond our immediate financial challenges to a more prosperous future for Derby.
But before I move on to our positive vision for Derby’s future, I must start by outlining our latest financial position.
It’s no surprise that tough decisions are needed once more, as we’re expected to make savings of 28 million pounds over the next three years.
And again, we’ll be asking local taxpayers to help solve a situation not of their making, through a 4.99 per cent increase in Council Tax in 2017/18.
This is comprised of a 1.99 per cent rise from the city council and 3 per cent as a result of the Government’s failure to tackle the unfolding crisis in adult social care.
That means an extra 79 pence a week for a Band A property and one pound, nineteen pence a week more for a Band D household.
We don’t take lightly the decision to ask for more. With economic growth stagnant and inflation rising, the incomes of working families are squeezed more than ever before.
But reductions in central funding and increasing dependence on Council Tax income have left local authorities in an impossible position. Let’s not forget that, in some areas, 15 per cent Council Tax increases have been considered.
Councils are struggling to provide their most important statutory services – and what has been offered in return is simply not enough.
The Government’s response has been to allow the Adult Social Care Precept, placing the burden on communities to solve a national crisis. And by relying on local taxation, the wealthiest areas receive a greater share. But that’s what we’ve come to expect.
Local authorities have now been given the opportunity to front-load six per cent of Council Tax increases over the next two years to help fund adult social care, but even this leaves Derby worse off by 2019.
Changes to the New Homes Bonus and the re-evaluation of Business Rates could lead to a further loss of around half a million pounds per year.
And spiralling costs through demand and inflation place greater burdens on our finances – in adult social care alone we expect an additional 14 million pounds of pressures by 2020.
So our medium-term financial outlook remains extremely challenging – but we’re determined to find ways to listen to the public, protect vital services and be ambitious for Derby.
Since the Budget Consultation was launched, we’ve made some important changes:
We’ve heard the concerns of young people and deferred proposed savings against the B-Line. And we’ve shown faith in our communities, by supporting Neighbourhood Management for a further year.
What’s more, we’re setting aside almost one million pounds to plan for the future. We’ll use this reserve to support city-libraries should they become community managed; start a crowd-funding campaign for projects that matter to local people and support the transformative City Centre Masterplan.
Every councillor has had their chance to comment and contribute too. Via the changes this administration has made to the Scrutiny system, non-executive members have had more chances to have their say than ever before.
So I encourage you all to contribute constructively to our positive discussion about Derby’s future this evening. And in return, my Group will be happy to consider any amendments put forward, so long as they are grounded in reality rather than rhetoric.
Madam Mayor – I won’t stand here and pretend that this Council does not face significant challenges. But we’ve set about addressing them with diligence.
The financial position has proved more difficult than anyone anticipated. But we’ve done the job the Government has asked of us by balancing the budget over the long term and saving £135 million pounds since 2010.
During that tough job, I freely admit that we’ve not always got everything right. However, we’ve never stopped listening to the people we serve. We’re not afraid to admit where we’ve made mistakes and we’re quick to address them.
That’s why this year we’ve reconsidered our budget plans and put money back into some services where there’s clear public demand.
So fellow councillors, this is where we stand. It’s now about how we move forward.
At the outset I said we have a clear vision for Derby as a safe, strong and ambitious city – a city which is a great place to live, work and visit. And despite our financial challenges, we’re holding true to that goal.
At times of uncertainty, cities need to look beyond their immediate boundaries in order to succeed. That’s why we’ve agreed the Derby and Nottingham Metropolitan Strategy, which will bring shared prosperity to our two great cities.
We’re already having discussions with Nottingham City Council for the shared management of our IT infrastructure – a move that not only has the potential to save both councils money, but also to retain specialist skills and improve our services.
And after Brexit, we’ve extended our outlook even further. In the past year, Derby City Council has led delegations to the Chinese city of Hefei with the support of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The British Consulate, UK Department for International Trade and the China-Britain Business Council. Together we’re unlocking a market of more than eight million people to Derby businesses of all sizes.
D2N2 was recognised as taking one of the biggest delegations and the feedback from local businesses was extremely encouraging.
Closer to home, we have bold plans to transform our city-centre to create a stronger economy.
Last year, we launched the City-Centre Masterplan which set out our blueprint for the next fifteen years. Now we’re moving forward strategically to make those plans a reality.
As has been well publicised, the Council is close to finalising the purchase of the former Debenhams building – and once that deal is complete, it’s our intention to put the site to use as soon as possible.
By Summer 2018, we’ll have developed detailed designs for a new performance venue on the Market Place and created a comprehensive plan for the re-development of Duckworth Square.
And we’ll prepare plans for the transformation of the historic Market Hall into a modern and bustling market.
With these proposals in place, we aim to increase city-centre footfall by 10 per cent, sending a clear message that Derby is a destination for people across the East Midlands.
Madam Mayor – we recognise that a strong city needs to be a vibrant city. To make that happen, our vision for leisure and culture must be ambitious.
In the past, these discretionary services have been hard-hit by cuts, but we know that the loss of cultural events has been keenly felt.
The message from the public has been clear and we’ve listened.
This year, we’ll be taking a new approach as we pledge to support culture in Derby. In this budget, we will put aside 250 thousand pounds for key events and 1.5 million pounds towards a sustainable future for our city’s cultural organisations.
And as part of our pledge, I’ve tasked officers to bring back the Darley Park Concert, which I’m delighted to say will take place on Sunday 3rd September this year.
These aren’t hollow promises, nor do they represent a return to the way things have been done in the past – it is about delivering services differently.
But, if these events are to continue, they’ll need the backing of the city in years to come – either by paying for tickets or working together to provide support in other ways.
Alongside our commitment to culture, we’re addressing valid concerns about our leisure facilities.
Last year, we announced our plans for a new 50 metre swimming pool. In this budget, we’ve prudently put aside an initial £20 million pounds of capital funding towards this vital project, so that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy the benefits of regular swimming.
By listening to the public, delivering services differently and investing in our leisure facilities, we’ll make our city a great place to live, work and visit.
Madam Mayor, you can see that we’re ambitious for Derby.
But we also know that we need to get the basics right. We need to keep our streets clean, our communities strong and our residents safe.
As we’ve reluctantly pressed ahead with the difficult job of implementing Government cuts, the public have judged the state of the city by how attractive it looks. And part of that has been the maintenance of our parks and green spaces.
As a ‘Derby lad born and bred’, I’ve fond memories of travelling on the bus to Markeaton Park with my father, and putting down jumpers for goalposts with my friends at Normanton Park. I’m sure many of you here have similar recollections.
We know how important parks are to our residents. And we recognise that many were disappointed to see the removal of flower beds from our streets and green spaces.
So in spite of our challenging financial situation, I’m pleased to announce that we’ll be putting 23,000 plants into our parks and re-introducing flower displays on major routes into the city, including at the Pentagon Island, ready for next Spring.
Madam Mayor – we’ve listened to the public’s concerns. This year, we’ll start to put Derby, Back in Bloom.
The determination of this administration to improve our communities is more than superficial. In fact, today I’m pledging to make Derby the cleanest English city within the next four years.
In just a few days, we’ll launch a Neighbourhood Charter that clearly sets out the standards residents can expect from their Council. In this budget, we’ve allocated 1.6 million pounds to guarantee cleaner streets; more attractive parks and safer communities.
What’s more, we’ll step-up engagement, education and enforcement with those residents who fail to take their responsibilities seriously.
Where there’s blight, the Council will target its resources to help renovate 300 empty or problem homes in the next three years.
And where residents struggle to find decent accommodation, we’ll provide the security they need to thrive by enabling the delivery of 500 affordable homes to rent or buy by 2020.
Madam Mayor – we’re proud of our communities and we want to see them flourish. But neighbourhoods are not just about bricks and mortar – they’re about people.
So we must ensure our residents can prosper, while the most vulnerable are protected. And we must guarantee that our communities are safe and strong.
This starts with children and young people.
In recent years, the ability of local authorities to influence the direction and quality of education in our schools has been stripped back. But in Derby, we’re finding innovative ways to create positive outcomes for our children.
For example, last year we started a free breakfast club for 400 of our city’s most under-privileged children. By July 2018, we’ll double that number.
We’ll continue to provide free music tuition to eleven-hundred young people in 20 schools. And we’ll give over 5,000 school pupils in Derby the opportunity to connect with local businesses to improve their employability and skills.
But our commitment to learning does not end there. We’ll help create 2,000 jobs and apprenticeships in the city within two years, ensuring that those educated in Derby can have fulfilling careers here in Derby.
So when we say we want to give every child and young person the best start in life, we mean it.
That includes supporting parents and carers across the city by retaining the core services offered at our children’s centres, and ensuring that the most vulnerable are kept safe.
Madam Mayor – perhaps the greatest challenge facing this authority is how to manage adult social care in the years ahead. Increasing demand and rising costs mean the Council faces 14 million pounds of additional pressures by 2020.
But we’re already tackling the challenge head-on by helping people to live independently in their homes and stay out of care where possible.
For example, by 2018 we’ll double the number of intermediate care assessments to help people leave hospital sooner, and make it easier for residents to access expert social care support by running weekly drop-in sessions at twelve community locations across Derby.
And Madam Mayor, while the Government has done little to respond to rising energy prices, in our city we’re helping residents in deprived communities escape fuel poverty.
That’s why later this year we’ll be announcing Ram Energy – an energy tariff that will save Derby residents money on their household bills.
Madam Mayor – the plans I’ve spoken about this evening are just a small part of this administration’s vision for Derby.
And they’re more than just hollow rhetoric – they’re fully costed and will be detailed in a report I intend to bring to Council Cabinet in April.
So in conclusion Madam Mayor – balancing the books in the last twelve months has been challenging. We’ve taken decisions as Labour councillors we never thought we’d have to take.
But leadership in tough times is never easy – either for elected members who shape policies, the officers who have to implement them, and the hard working staff on the front line who deliver services day-in and day-out.
And this administration would like to put on record our thanks to the thousands of Council employees who keep our public services running smoothly. It’s their dedication that makes us optimistic for Derby’s future.
While we cannot deny that there are more difficult choices ahead for this Council, we’ve never stopped believing in a bright future for Derby, as a safe, strong and ambitious city.
We’re proud to lead this fantastic city and proud of the extraordinary work this authority performs on a daily basis.
And despite the incredibly difficult financial position outlined earlier, we can proudly say that this Council is delivering for Derby.
Fellow councillors – regardless of who’s delivering the Budget in the years ahead, the challenges will remain the same. So as community leaders, let’s find a way to address them together.
Published: Thursday 2nd March, 2017