Column by the leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage.

We have now released our draft budget for 2022/23, setting out proposals for making significant additional investments in children’s services, worth more than £10 million over the next four years, as well as other local priorities. The proposals allocate spending of £731m on services, including schools, based on our current information on income, grants and the use of reserves.

As a Council and community, we have all felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our residents and local businesses. We have had to adapt and do things differently. We have risen to those challenges together and can now plan how we will meet your needs in the years ahead.

The proposals outline how we will work to ensure that young people in South Gloucestershire get the best start in life; how we will work with communities, the voluntary sector and individuals to help them to help themselves to thrive; how we will promote sustainable, inclusive communities, supported by the infrastructure and growth they need; and how we will do this while continuing to demonstrate that we can deliver value for money.

We aim to do all of this while tackling the biggest challenges of our time, namely responding to the climate and ecological emergencies and to playing our part in eliminating the inequality gaps that exist in our society, which were only highlighted further during the pandemic. We are committed to helping those most in need as we emerge from the pandemic through, for example, the continuation of our Community Resilience Fund. We will also continue to support local communities across the district by investing in facilities and infrastructure to improve the places people live and work and how they get around.

In developing these plans, we have carried out a thorough review of our services and identified £19.7 million in savings, which can be achieved through improving the way we work. We will build on the new ways of working we have developed over the past two years, to work better across the council and with our partners, clearly aligning available resources with the Council plan. This will help to protect our frontline services and support staff to work more flexibly to best meet your needs.

The plans take into account the major spending nationally and in South Gloucestershire to support local people and the local economy over the past two years and how it will affect the resources available in the future. At the same time, we are confronting the challenges of rising costs and demand, particularly for social care services, which were factors before Covid-19 and remain issues that must be managed into the future. We will continue to propose an Adult Social Care Levy to help us meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents until the recently announced funding from Government to support these services flows through to councils, having been initially allocated to addressing demand in the NHS following the pandemic.

The proposals, which will be open to public consultation from Monday 18 October, will help South Gloucestershire rise and thrive into the future.