County Hall Preston

Council sets first £1billion budget

Leaders at Lancashire County Council are looking to build on a year of positive progress as the authority set its' first ever £1billion budget.

At a meeting of the full council today, members heard that thanks to careful management the current financial outlook was generally positive.

However leaders said the council could not be complacent and that some hard decisions may still need to be taken to protect services and communities.

They added that their focus remained that of protecting residents and supporting the economy, and the budget has been developed with these two priorities at the forefront.

In total, a budget of £1,039.046m was announced, with the largest amounts set to be spent on adult services at £444.813million, children's social care at £193.647million and a further £163.016m on highways and transport.

During the meeting an extra £1.8million was announced for a new bespoke Lancashire Investment Fund, which would be used to help businesses and encourage growth to boost local employment.

A further £1million on top of the highways budget was also announced to help fix multiple potholes on roads which otherwise would have to wait for repair.

Last week it was also announced that an extra £200k would be invested in boosting the team which encourages sustainable transport, in the form of walking and cycling, to help attract more Government funding to the county and £756k would be used to improve cyber security. 

The council's local member grants scheme, which helps councillors support vital voluntary, community and faith sector groups across Lancashire, will also to be increased from £2,000 to £2,500 Each to mark the coronation of King Charles III.

County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, leader of the County Council, said: "Looking back at the past year it is really great to see how much the council has achieved and helped improve the lives of people in Lancashire.

"In fact there has been really good progress in so many areas, and I'm delighted to say that thanks to our careful financial management we will again be looking to continue our work to help Lancashire's residents and businesses thrive.

"Over the past year, we have seen our Children's and Family Service move from Requires Improvement to Good, the county attract £200million of Levelling Up funding, including £50million for the county council's bid which will bring improvements and opportunities right across East Lancashire, and more than 50,000 businesses supported by the county's Business Growth Hub.

"We've also been working hard on our highways, investing in the 'Love Clean Streets' App, rubber roads and other innovative ways to keep Lancashire's roads moving.

"Our continued investment and focus on Adult Social Care, with a ring fenced 2% increase in funding from council tax, as well more than £193million being spent on children's social care, means we can ensure many of most vulnerable residents receive the support they need."

Cllr Alan Vincent, who is deputy leader of the council and looks after finance, said: "I'm very pleased to say that overall our finances are stable, but I am also realistic and know there is more to do.

"Over the last year we have felt the pressure of rising costs like the rest of the county and have worked hard to find ways to reduce these while continuing to deliver much needed services, whilst also providing value for money. 

"Our financial management is paying off and with the addition of the government's financial settlement, we are now in a better position than most local authorities. 

"But we must be careful, and maintain the financial strategy that has served us well. 

"By taking this considered approach we feel optimistic that later in the year we will be in a position to provide even more support and further investment."

Members also voted to support an increase in Council Tax of 1.99 per cent, with a further 2 per cent, ring-fenced to be spent on adult social care, meaning the level was frozen at 3.99 per cent, the same as last year.

In comparison, around 80 per cent of county councils are intending to raise the full 4.99% on council tax that they levy without having to ask their residents permission to do so in a referendum.