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Updated budget proposals published as Council awaits government decision

Council and democracy

Wednesday, 21 February 2024
Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke

Middlesbrough Council has published updated budget proposals for 2024/25 as it waits for news on its application for support from government.

Following the largest public consultation in five years, the Council is setting out savings and income generation plans totalling £13.9m for the next financial year, rising to £21m in 2026/27.

Mayor Chris Cooke and his Executive have made changes to a small number of proposals following the consultation – including withdrawing 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 that have emerged during the consultation. The museum will reopen for its new season in April.

The Council’s shortfall after the savings proposals are taken into account has reduced to £4.7m as a result of an extra £1.6m government funding for social care.

Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the budget consultation – we received lots of constructive feedback and have been able to make some changes to the original plans.

“We are still having to make difficult decisions in other areas due to the financial position of the Council. I am pleased, however, to have been able to safeguard areas including area care, school crossing patrols, community safety and youth services.

“We’re making solid progress on my plan to recover, reset and deliver for the people of Middlesbrough.”

The Council made an application to government for Exceptional Financial Support in January with a decision expected in the week commencing 26 February.

If approved, the Council would have permission to borrow money to fund day-to-day spending in 2024/25 only in a way not usually permitted. This would allow the Council to cover the shortfall while it introduces plans to transform services and lower costs. This will be vital to address a further budget gap of £7.95m in the period to 2026/27.

Cllr Nicky Walker, Executive member for Finance and Governance, said: “People are well aware of how challenging our financial position is and that the Council had a critically low level of reserves as of April 2023.

“Since the elections in May we have started the long and difficult task of getting a grip on budgets. The forecasted overspend for 2023/24 has reduced from £11.5m to £5.5m between the end of June last year and the end of December.

“The budget consultation was a very worthy exercise – members of the public and councillors from all parties have definitely played their part.”

The Council’s Executive will vote on whether to endorse the proposals on February 28.

Full Council will vote on the terms of Exceptional Financial Support subject to a decision, the revised Budget and proposed council tax increase totalling 4.99% on March 8.