Bradford council has set out its 2021 budget proposals.

The budget proposals have been developed against a backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic and considerable national uncertainty.

However, the proposals suggest investing £14.6 million in 2021-22 for priorities aligned to the Council Plan and to mitigate the worst impacts of COVID-19 on people and the district’s economy. Over £15.9 million in capital investments is also proposed over five years.

Proposed investments include:

  • £6.5 million to support Children’s Services to meet significantly increased demands
  • £2.4 million to raise educational attainment, to help children to catch up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – this will be available for the 2021-22 academic year and fall over two financial years – £1.2m in 2021-22 and 1.2m in 2022-23.
  • £1 million to help improve skills and employability in response to increased unemployment, by supporting skills development through Bradford’s award-winning SkillsHouse
  • £258,000 additional support for culture, which is at the heart of the district’s economic growth strategy
  • £250,000 to sustain the Stronger Communities team if Government funding ends or is reduced
  • £0.5 million to improve commissioning of services for vulnerable adults
  • £1 million to meet demand and market price volatility pressures in Waste Services
  • £1.25 million for Workforce Development to ensure that the workforce to invest in talent to deliver high quality services, attract and retain the best staff and reduce inequality.

The budget proposals also include funding to allow the deferral of savings agreed in previous budgets for a further year – £513,000 in Youth Services and £350,000 in Welfare Advice and Customer services.

Capital investment proposals include:

  • Expanding Special Educational Needs and Disability provision (£6 million over three years)
  • Providing equipment to enable people with disabilities to support their daily living (£3.3 million over four years)
  • The construction of a new 50-bed short-stay residential home on the site of Neville Grange in Saltaire (additional £2.4 million)
  • Provision of laptops to children (£2.2 million over the 2021-22 academic year which falls into 2 financial years)

The report proposes that Council Tax is increased by 1.99% in 2021-22. This increase would result in an extra £28.41 annually per Band D property.

To maintain essential services during uncertain times, a funding gap for 2021-22 of £28 million will be closed by the use of Council reserves.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “The impact of COVID-19 on our district in 2020, both financially, and its human impact, has been devastating and our budget proposals have been drawn up against that backdrop.

“What matters to us is recovery – supporting people to get into work so we can lessen the hardship that COVID-19 has wrought, and helping our children catch up after all the schooling they’ve missed. Crucially it is also about not losing sight of our economic goals so we recover from the challenges of 2020. We need to push forward with our projects to improve the district’s infrastructure and culture, develop green jobs, and establish our district as a place of opportunity for sustainable and inclusive growth and investment. This will help our long-term future.

“We are also continuing to invest in our critical services to provide support for our most vulnerable children and families, and to keep people safe and cared for. Our growing population will mean we need further investment to support increasing demands in waste collection as well as for services such as adults and children’s social care.

“I am heartened that the Council is able to make budget proposals for 2021-22 that avoid the need for cuts to services and jobs.  To be in such a relatively strong position after such a year is testament to the disciplined and responsible financial management we have put in place over recent years.

“The way our staff have worked in response to the pandemic has been superb – each and every person has well and truly earned the title of ‘key worker’. We recognise that we need to make some investment in our workforce and this will be reflected in the form of training, equipment and other necessary people support. It is only through our excellent staff that we can become an excellent council.”

Bradford Council’s Executive will consider the proposals on 1 December before taking them for consultation. The budget will be set at Full Council on 18 February 2021.