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Budget proposals for 2021-22 outlined

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Budget proposals for the coming year will strive to protect council services and save as many jobs as possible amid the on-going coronavirus pandemic response.

A report to Middlesbrough Council's Executive sets out how a £3 million budget gap will be made up with the minimum of impact to frontline services.

Under the proposals savings will be achieved through efficiencies, with a Council Tax rise equating to about £1 per week (3.99%) put forward to ensure a balanced budget.

The proposals are also in line with the Council's longer-term key strategic priorities which now include Covid-19 recovery alongside crime and anti-social behaviour, climate change and protecting in the vulnerable.

The report highlights the potential risk to the Council's finances caused by the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 crisis, in particular on income from Council Tax and business rates.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "My first priority is to protect services and save council jobs.

"Like everywhere else, Middlesbrough Council has a massive challenge on its hands and Covid-19 has only added to the already enormous pressure on our finances.

"It's also important to stress that at this stage these proposals are not yet part of the budget and will be the subject of extensive public consultation.

"What we are doing now is seeking feedback from the Middlesbrough public and asking councillors what they would like us to do.

"Last year we carried out the biggest public consultation in the town's history - and we're going to do the same again this time around, giving everyone a chance to have their say on what are important and difficult decisions.

"We can't do everything that everyone wants, of course, but we absolutely promise to listen. 

"Last year, one of the many potential savings identified was to reduce the council funding of school crossings. The public understandably expressed their concerns about this through the consultation and, as a result, we changed that decision.

"Another proposal was to contract out the council's cleaning services, but again a significant number of people were concerned, we listened and did not make the proposed changes.

"The proposal is that we increase Council Tax payments by an average of about a pound a week but make almost no cuts to services or jobs.

"Of course, we can increase Council Tax by less than £1 a week but that will mean cuts to services and probably jobs. That's what people are really being asked because this isn't an easy decision.

"I know neither I nor any executive member or councillor want to see Council Tax increases.

"That's not why we are here - but we are here to try to protect jobs and vital services, and that's what I believe these proposals would do.

Budget proposals for 2021/20 and the Medium-Term Financial Plan will be considered at a meeting of Middlesbrough Council's Executive on Tuesday, November 24. The report will then be considered at a meeting of full Council on Wednesday, December 16 ahead of a six-week public consultation on any proposed Council Tax increase.

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