Southend Borough Council have passed their budget for 2017/18 meaning council tax will rise by 4.99 per cent in April.
Council tax will rise by 1.99 per cent and a 3 per cent ring-fenced social care precept has been approved. In total this amounts to £1.15 per week for a Band D property or £60.12 a year.
At Full Council last night, it was also revealed it needed to bridge an £11m budget gap, with £6.921m of departmental savings plus £0.581m from Public Health being identified and approved.
In addition, council reserves of £3.8m will be used to offset the estimated reduction in business rates and smooth the council’s budget gap over the next three years.
The council will also invest £3m into services to deal with spending pressures including £1m to deal with the implications of the national living wage, £500,000 to care for an ageing population that need council support, £400,000 to help children with learning disabilities move into adult social care, and £600,000 for added demand and cost pressures in children’s services. An additional £2m will also be invested in one-off essential projects.
Car parking charges will also be frozen, and in some cases reduced, and cemetery and crematorium charges and Pier entry charges have also been frozen.
This follows confirmation that the main grant the council receives from central Government will decrease by £6.7m – 31 per cent reduction – to £14.7m. By 2020 it is anticipated that the council will receive no core grant at all and will be reliant on council tax, business rates, and fees and charges as its main sources of funding.
£79m of additional funding for capital projects over the next four years has also been identified for expanded secondary schools, a new care campus for the elderly, an Innovation Centre at Airport Business Park Southend, and investment in the council’s housing stock, the Pier, parks and car parking improvements.
Tenant rents will be reduced by 1% in 2017/18, although the council has highlighted that this national policy means it will have around £3.8m less in HRA resources each year for the next three years, severely reducing the funds available to build new council housing.
Also Basildon Council has agreed a budget for 2017/18 that balances savings to cope with continued reductions in government grant with measured investment to meet its promises to residents.
One-off investments of almost £1m funded from the council’s reserves were agreed together with a rise in council tax of 1.99% – equivalent to 10p a week on a band D charge. Investments include:
• £360,000 in parks and public open spaces in Wickford Memorial Park,
Langdon Hills and in Laindon and Pitsea
• £300,000 to support Wickford’s continuing regeneration
• investment of £250,000 in Superfast Essex to spread access to
superfast broadband across the borough boosting small businesses in
particular (match funding from partners would triple this to £750,000)
• £19,500 on extra street lighting in Nethermayne to help keep
residents there safer.
But the budget also wrestles with continued cuts in total government support that has now been slashed by 64% since 2010/11 when austerity measures were introduced.
The council has found another £3m in savings to balance the budget this year but will need to find more than £6m over the coming two years.
Council Leader Cllr Phil Turner said: “No one wants to see taxes go up, but while our funding continues to go down, and the cost of services, and demand for them, goes up, we are faced with very little choice.
“I’m also pleased that, because we have sensibly built up our reserves, we are also able to afford one-off spending to ensure we keep the promises we have made to you.”
The budget was agreed by Council at its meeting on 23 February 2017. For full details see council papers at http://www.basildonmeetings.info