Column by leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage

Ensuring we recover and rise after the pandemic is at the heart of our decision making right now.

I am therefore delighted to say we have agreed a budget of more than £400 million to deliver public services next year.

We are determined the future will be a positive one for our residents, communities, schools and businesses.

This budget allocates funding that will help us achieve our objectives of continuing to help people help themselves and offering practical support to those dealing with the impact of Covid on their livelihoods.

To deliver our ambitious recovery plan for South Gloucestershire, we have taken the difficult decision to increase the rate of council tax for the next financial year by 4.99 per cent, which includes a three per cent boost directly to deliver adult social care services – an area that has been put under an increasing amount of pressure and risk by the pandemic.

Over the past year, demand for council services has shifted due to the pandemic.

We have scaled back in some areas, where business as usual has not been possible due to restrictions, and increased the support we provide in others.

We know that as normal life returns, however, that the sustained pressure on our adult social care services, for example, will continue.

But we need to make sure everyone is on the journey to recovery together, which is why we have also developed a new £1 million fund on top of existing measures to help those who continue to need it.

This will be aimed at residents who may not have qualified for support to date, perhaps due to not being in receipt of qualifying benefits and will provide support for households facing financial challenges arising from the pandemic.

I’m pleased to say we’ll also be providing an additional one-year cash boost to our welfare debt advice services, increasing funding for domestic violence support services and launching the second phase of our trailblazing Recovery Curriculum, supporting children to catch-up on lost learning and support their mental welfare.

None of this is at the expense of our existing projects to which we remain committed, such as the purchase of the Thornbury Hospital site to develop new community healthcare facilities and completing Yate Park and Ride.

We will also continue to invest in new low carbon school buildings with major projects including Lyde Green’s brand new school and the rebuilding of Elm Park Primary School in Winterbourne alongside continuing our programme of upgrades and maintenance for existing school buildings to make them more energy efficient and bring down their running costs.

Financial decision making within a local authority is always tough, never more so than now. But our priorities are clear.

We want the very best for our young people. We want our communities to thrive.

And we want each individual, family and business trading in South Gloucestershire to prosper.

We don’t just want to return to normal, we want to be taking steps forward and build a better future for everyone.