On 28th February 2024, councillors met to set the council’s budget for the coming year.

Labour’s plans include:

  • What is expected to be the second lowest council tax increase in the country
  • £16m more for road and pavement resurfacing over the coming four years
  • More money for children’s centres and youth work, a £1m upgrade to children’s play areas, and a continuation of our Council Tax Support Top up to 14,000 low income families
  • The introduction of universal baby packs, supplying the parents of every newborn with essential products and signposting them to support services
  • £360,000 a year more for street cleaning, a new £2m Our Places Fund to lift local communities, and halving the cost of bulky waste collections

The Liberal Democrats voted against the plans, while Conservative councillors abstained.

These were the remarks of council Leader, Cllr Chris Read.


Colleagues – in proposing this year’s budget, my thanks as always to our excellent Finance staff, Cabinet colleagues, our Chief Executive, and especially to Cllr Alam who has been as diligent as always in ensuring that we bring forward serious budget proposals for the coming year. As ever this year’s budget marks the culmination of many months of hard work and long nights.

And let’s be honest, this year we are in a position that many of our colleagues across the country would love to be in.

Six councils have all declared that they couldn’t balance their books over the last few years.

Somerset seeking the ability to increase council tax by 10%, Bradford asking for additional financial help from the government to help fill a £120 million budget shortfall over the next five years.

Sky News reported last week that out of 129 councils, only eight could proposed a lower council tax increase than the maximum allowed by the government’s cap – and five of those are proposing more than 4.8%.

That’s what 14 years of Conservative government has done to councils of all colours.

So I’m pleased to be able to stand here today proposing an increase below the referendum cap for the fifth year in a row.

And I’m pleased to be able to inform members that we believe that to be the second lowest increase of any council with social care responsibilities anywhere in the country – and the lowest in Yorkshire.

Because we have taken the tough decisions, because we have been prudent, because we did what we said we would do, a Band D council tax payer in Rotherham has nearly £200 more in their pocket today than they would have done otherwise.

And despite the protestations of the party opposite last year, I’m proud that we will continue our Council Tax Support Top-Up payments for a further year. Now worth £121.96, it will again support 14,000 Rotherham households of working age through the cost of living crisis, lifting 10,000 of those out of borough-wide council tax altogether.

But after £200 million of cuts under this government, communities here are poorer not just in their private lives, but also in their public spaces.

And if we keep stumbling from one short term funding deal to the next, the future will remain fragile.

So we should say with one voice today that councils need sustainable, reliable funding, based on multi-year settlements so we can better provide for the needs of our families.

As we’ve come through the cost of living crisis, it’s often families that are hardest hit.

The number of children in our borough needing free school meals has risen by 25% in the last three years. That’s an extra two and half thousand extra children.

Having a child should be the greatest thing that ever happens to you – that’s what everyone says. But take it from me, it’s also one of the scariest.

It’s hard enough if you’ve got some resources and stability and support to get you through.

But we know that just isn’t the case for far too many people.

So in our proposal for universal baby packs in this budget, we want to ensure every newborn child has the essentials, and every parent gets access to the help and support that they need. Launching later this year, we’ll make it as simple and easy as possible, to get good quality basics – and by registering at a local children’s centre, we’ll make sure this council has got parents’ backs right from day one.

And we can go further than that. By reinvesting £370,000 a year, we’ll increase the number of open access sessions in our children’s centres and bolster youth work provision for older children too. By creating hundreds of additional sessions each year that anyone can attend for free we’ll give additional time and energy to any family who needs to use it.

It was Cllr Monk who said to me a couple of years ago, “Families just need somewhere to go”.

And then she added in case I’d missed it; “For free.”

And on that, as usual, she was right.

I know that members in a number of wards, including ours, have been trying to improve the children’s playgrounds in their areas.

In our UKSPF plan a few months ago, we committed additional funding to match-fund two new Multi-Use Games Areas. And in this budget with nearly a million pounds of additional resources we can also commit to major upgrades of eight further children’s play areas across the borough, including those at Thrybergh and Rother Valley Country Parks.

We’ll fix and renovate the Water Splash in Clifton Park.

And alongside the Rotherham Parent Carer’s Forum, we will bring forward their long-held ambition for a new Hub for children and families with Special Educational Needs in the town centre.

With the Forge Island cinema due to open later this summer, the award winning children’s literacy charity Grimm & Co, our programme of library investment across the borough, ten new playgrounds, more youth work, better access to our children’s centres, the SEND Hub, and our baby packs – even in these difficult times we will carve out a space for our children to grow and flourish, whatever their background.

This is a budget for families.

But this is also a budget that gives priority to those areas of spending that residents have told us are the most important to them.

Since 2016, we’ve halved the number of potholes in the borough’s roads, and they’re now better than the national average. But we know that people still want to see more done. So we’ll invest a further £16 million over the next four years to resurface 40 miles more carriageway and scores more pavements.

We’ll put more cash towards keeping the streets clean, especially in our principal towns: Maltby, Dinnington, Swinton, Wath and the town centre itself. We’ll introduce a dedicated team of sweeper drivers to help improve the appearance of our streets everywhere.

We’ll fix traffic lights and street lights, and put a further £400,000 towards small-scale local road safety improvements at the request of our communities.

We’ll help residents to do the right thing by halving the cost of household bulky waste collections, and as we proposed a few weeks ago, we’ll increase fines for littering and fly-tipping up to the maximum we’re allowed to do.

We’ll buy the technology we need to improve the response we give to residents, so they’ll know when their reports are being actioned, streets are cleaned, fly-tipping removed or streetlights fixed.

We’ll provide a further £5.5 million of capital funding, to deliver flood alleviation schemes at Whiston and Laughton Common, with further cash available to support the development of a scheme at Catcliffe if that is required once the Section 19 Audit Report is complete.

I say to the members for Dinnington and Sitwell and Rother Vale, this is your chance to stand with your communities and show that you too want to see those flood defences built by backing Labour’s proposals today. Because I suspect they will look pretty dimly on councillors who fail to take that opportunity.

Moreover, we’ll build on the success of our Towns and Villages Fund, which is seeing improvements to local centres in 23 locations across the borough, by putting an extra £2 million into our new Our Places Fund. We’ll continue to make tangible improvements in the places where our residents live.

We will talk later in this meeting about our ambitious plans for social and affordable housing. But Britain is also facing a homelessness crisis.

There were more people living in temporary accommodation in England last year than at any time in history.

Official figures last February showed a 25% increase in the number of people rough sleeping.

In Rotherham there were 146 people living in hotels or other temporary accommodation in December – up by 25% on the year before.

The homelessness crisis is a stain on the moral character of our country.

And while the party opposite lines up to oppose the building of new homes, and to de-fund the building of new council homes, homelessness is a catastrophe in the lives of far too many of our residents.

So we will do more to help people avoid falling into homelessness, and provide more temporary accommodation. We’ll fund permanently our Empty Homes Officer, who has helped to bring 43 otherwise dis-used properties back into residential use. And we will continue to deliver on the biggest council homes building programme for fifty years.

It isn’t asking a lot to expect to be able to have a roof over your head.
It isn’t asking a lot to hope that children would get the essentials in life.
Or that the streets might be kept clean. Or that you’d have a park to go to.

But Britain has fallen a long, long way these last 14 years.

It’s a country crying out for change for a reason.

With our budget proposals we will continue to do all that we can to build the better borough that our residents so deserve. And we will do so in the hope and the knowledge that change is on its way.

Mr Mayor, I move.

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