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Balanced budget agreed by councillors in Middlesbrough

Council and democracy

Friday, 08 March 2024
Middlesbrough Council chamber at the Town Hall

Middlesbrough Council stands ready to ‘recover, reset and deliver’ after councillors agreed a balanced budget for 2024/25.

A full council meeting saw a majority of members vote to approve the budget, which contains savings and income generation plans totalling £13.9m, rising to £21m by 2026/27.

An application for Exceptional Financial Support to bridge a £4.7m budget shortfall was also approved at the meeting, held at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Friday evening.

Savings identified include following the majority of English councils in switching from weekly to fortnightly refuse collections and introducing a £40 annual charge for green waste collection.

And in line with three quarters of councils across the country, a 2.99% increase to Council Tax, plus a further 2% levy to help pay for adult social care, was also agreed.

But after the biggest public consultation held in Middlesbrough for five years, Mayor Chris Cooke and his Executive team withdrew plans to introduce parking charges at Stewart Park.

A decision on the long-term future of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum will also be deferred so more consideration can be given to options emerged during the consultation.

These include potentially appointing a third-party provider to run the venue, reducing running costs and developing a plan to attract more visitors.

Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke said: “We had to take difficult decisions in order to satisfy our legal requirement to set a balanced budget, after inheriting a very difficult financial position following last May’s election.

“I am delighted we have been able to protect red line services that the public have told us matter most to them - including area care, school crossing patrols, community safety and youth services.

“I’m also pleased we have been able to remove proposals to charge for parking at Stewart Park and keep Captain Cook Birthplace Museum open while we explore our options.

“I’d like to thank Councillors from all parties for their input as part of the budget process.

“We can now move forward with my plan to recover, reset and deliver for the people of Middlesbrough.”

The Council’s bid for Exceptional Financial Support was accepted by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) last week (February 29).

It allows the Council to borrow money to fund day-to-day spending next year in a way not usually permitted, and to cover financial risks in the absence of adequate revenue reserves.

This buys the Council more time to transform services in order to become financially sustainable and to protect and rebuild its critically low revenue reserves.

Cllr Nicky Walker, Executive member for Finance and Governance, said: “People living in Middlesbrough know that the financial position we inherited after last May’s election was very difficult, leaving us with critically low levels of reserves and spending at levels above our means.

“If we had not voted to approve the budget, the Section 151 Officer would have had to issue a Section 114 notice, which would have been catastrophic for Middlesbrough and led to a range of valued services being suspended.

“The need for the same level of savings or more – as well as Exceptional Financial Support - would remain, but we would also risk some of the harsher consequences of a Section 114 seen in other councils.

“Members of the public and councillors have played a vital role in engaging with and providing constructive feedback on the consultation, and we can now look forward with confidence.”

More details for residents on changes to refuse collection will be available on Monday (March 11).