BARNSLEY Council has set aside almost £35m to cover anticipated cost pressures over the next year and rubber-stamped an almost five per cent council tax hike after approving a ‘miraculous balanced budget’ yesterday.

Bosses admitted that the current financial situation is ‘difficult’ and they are expecting to spend an additional £35m on day-to-day services across the town, but a report states this was predicted and they have already set this aside.

This funding includes £8.9m for pay, £6.6m on adult social care, £14.9m on children’s social care as well as an additional £1m investment in legal services.

Leader of Barnsley Council Sir Steve Houghton urged those in the chamber to back the budget.

He said: “The job of this council has been to rebuild Barnsley for the last 25 years.

“That costs money and time and effort.

“For us to be able to rebuild this borough, still maintain services against the background of what’s happened to us and the worst cuts to any council in the country bar Liverpool, is a unique achievement.( “We all know we’ve got big problems.

“All of us have to come together and work for the benefit of the borough of the whole.”

Coun James Higginbottom, cabinet spokesperson for environment and highways, praised the budget - admitting that the decisions the council have had to made have been very difficult.

He said: “This budget requires tough decisions.

“Decisions that none of us came into politics to make.

“Decisions that will need to be taken today and in years to come if we are to continue to meet our financial responsibilities.

“But the proposals before us are a balanced budget and the protection of frontline public services.

“Of course that requires a commitment from every directorate to live within its means and to transform how services are delivered in the most cost-effective way.

“But it is nothing short of miraculous that we are able to be in such a strong position as we are today.”

Despite the difficult situation the council has found themselves in due to government cuts, Coun Higginbottom said it is ‘not all doom and gloom’.

The budget provides an investment in schools, an additional £2m earmarked for highway maintenance and an ‘innovative’ Health on the High Street campaign.

“This budget and my remarks are not all doom and gloom,” he added.

“We have so much to be proud of in Barnsley - a town transformed, a place on the up, a borough confident about our future.

“That is what we can deliver thanks to a balanced budget, sound finances and an unwavering commitment to delivering for Barnsley.

“The 2024/25 budget is one that we can be proud of.”

However, the Liberal Democrat group voted against the budget.

Coun Hannah Kitching, leader of the group, said: “I have already expressed my support for the impressive effort but we all know there is more to local government than balancing the books.

“We can’t pretend that the current financial situation is something to celebrate.

“We always bring forward our amendment with the understanding that if the budget can be amended we will of course support it, but this is Labour’s budget, not ours, and unlike Coun Robert Barnard (Conservative leader in Barnsley) do not feel any obligation to vote for it.

“Therefore, the Lib Dem group will again be voting against the budget.”

Coun Barnard added that he would ‘reluctantly’ vote for the budget.

“At the moment we have no alternative than to support this budget otherwise the council will find itself in dire straits like others.

“Until we have a serious discussion about the level of public spending we’ll be here year after year confronting the same problems.

“Reluctantly I will be supporting the budget.”

A 4.99 per cent council tax increase was also rubber-stamped at yesterday’s meeting - two per cent for adult and social care, with the remaining 2.99 per cent for frontline services.

Coun Houghton said: “No-one wants to see a council tax rise but we have a legal duty to set a balanced budget.

“If we all took the position of the opposition we would be in contradiction of the law.

“There are no cuts in this budget. You don’t take money from poor people to give to other poor people - that’s not how it works.”

A total of 44 councillors voted for the budget, whilst nine voted against.