Better than expected income from business rates means Taunton Deane Borough Council can deliver a balanced budget.
Initial estimates reported in January forecast a drop in business rates income – one of a number of funding streams received by the council. The figures took into account information supplied by the Government in its provisional settlement for local government in December 2017.
Updated information has revealed that business rates income is forecast to increase by around £0.5m – and that means the council will not have to rely on using its reserves.
The change is being reported to the Council’s Executive that meets on Thursday 8 February 2018 to consider final budget proposals for the year ahead. Other proposals reported to the Corporate Scrutiny Committee last month remain unchanged.
The council is proposing to continue its investment in boosting the local economy as part of its budget plans for the year ahead and to spend almost £9m on maintaining and improving its own housing properties – almost 6,000 homes.
The council embarked on a major economic investment programme some three years ago, allocating £16.6m over five years towards its growth and development ambitions.
The investment is due to continue in the year ahead with money earmarked for the following schemes:
The investment is continuing despite the council seeing its overall funding – Government grant and New Homes Bonus (NHB) - reducing. The Government Revenue Support Grant has gone down by £365,000 (57%), and NHB by £470,000 (12%).
“The improved Business rates figure will enable us to deliver our budget for 2018-19 - again without using our reserves. This is a real achievement when local government is seeing its funding cut drastically. Thanks to prudent housekeeping in the past, we are still able to commit to our pledge to invest in our economy despite seeing such significant decreases in funding,” said Council Leader John Williams.
“We will be able to set a balanced budget in the coming year despite the challenges we face, without the need to cut services. We have delivered substantial savings through our partnership with West Somerset Council - £1.8m annually – and we will be able to increase this by a further £3.1m a year through changing the way we work and, if approved, creating a new, single council.”
The council’s Executive is, in principle, set to increase Council Tax by £5 (3.3%) a year – around 10 pence per week – for the average Band D property. This will set the annual tax rate at £154.62 - or £2.97 per week – comprising £152.88 for all Taunton Deane services and £1.74 for the Somerset Rivers Authority. The increase will raise an additional £207,000, which goes towards protecting vital services so valued by the community we serve.
Council tenants look set to see their rent fall by 1% - from an average £82.52 per week to £81.69 per week in 2018/19.
Maintaining our existing housing stock of nearly 6,000 homes is important so investment continues in the housing capital programme with £8.973m budgeted for 2018/19.
Major Works include the following:
The budget for the Social Housing Development Fund is for new development and/or the redevelopment of housing. This budget represents an ongoing programme averaging 15 units a year. For 2018/19 this is increased to £2.03m.
The budget proposals were considered by the Council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee on 25 January 2018, will go to the Executive on 8 February 2018 and the final decisions will be made by Full Council on Thursday 22 February 2018.
Taunton Deane’s share of the overall Council tax bill is about 10% of the total with the remainder going to fund Somerset County Council, Police and Fire services, and Town and Parish councils.