Council tax increases
Detailed planning for the council’s 2019 to 2020 budget started last September. The context we faced was a challenging one, with a further £2.3m reduction in our basic government grant support. However it was a known position, being the last year of a 4-year funding settlement for local government.
Alongside this, like most local authorities we are seeing rising demand for our services, most notably those we provide for vulnerable children and adults. Our budget plans have allowed £1.9m of additional funding for these services alone, with an extra £1.3m related to all other services.
To help balance these pressures, we have identified efficiency savings and additional income of just under £2m. In addition, we expect our Transformation Programme to reduce costs by a further £3m during the year. This will be in addition to the £11.6m that the programme has already delivered since 2016, through taking a different approach to securing services that residents value, such as transferring the running of sports, leisure and conference facilities to specialist operators and introducing new technology to enhance library services.
Importantly, none of the savings proposals will have a significant impact on the services we provide for local people and no existing facilities will close.
Looking beyond next year, we know that a new funding system will be introduced for local authorities, with its detail still being developed by the government.
Given the current funding gap and our expectation that this may increase in 2020 as a result of the new system, next year’s budget is based on a council tax increase of 2.99%. This represents an additional 73 pence per week for an average Band D property and will contribute an extra £1.7m of ongoing funding.
Even with this increase, we will need to use £2.6m from the council’s reserves to balance the budget and maintain services.
The council understands that no increase in council tax is welcome. We will, of course, continue to review and transform all our services for residents in order to both reduce their cost and secure a sustainable future for them.