A year ago, when I presented the council’s budget for 2020, I did so with optimism and positivity about the beginning of the new decade.

Chairman and fellow members, after the last 12 months, you would be forgiven for thinking that this year, my approach might
be very different.

However, I believe we have much to remain optimistic about. The recent roll-out of Covid vaccines at a significant pace, and ahead of the rest of the world, has raised hopes of a significant pandemic turnaround in the near future.

As a council, we have also weathered the storm better than most, thanks to our previous sound financial management and the £45m Covid support payments we have received from the government.

This has provided us with a solid footing to continue our services – especially those supporting our most vulnerable residents.

Having some reserves in the bank for a rainy day has also meant that today I am able to present to you, a balanced budget.

But this is not only a budget that keeps services going. Our careful financial management has also enabled us to produce a budget that continues our investment in the county’s infrastructure, makes improvements to services and provides financial help to our small businesses who need it most.