Council tax up and more economies to come.

Bath's Guildhall.

Your council tax bill is about to go up. Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet has set out its proposal to keep council tax as one of the lowest in the region while it meets an unprecedented financial squeeze and increased demands to support the most vulnerable.

The cabinet is proposing a general council tax increase of 2.95% to enable the authority to deliver a balanced budget as well as help meet the rising demands on adults and children’s services.  This equates to an increase of £39.76 per year for a Band D property.

The increase is in addition to the 1% social care precept, which is ring-fenced to support Adult Social Care services. This is equivalent to an increase of £13.47 per year on a Band D property.

The proposal comes as the council faces reductions in government funding. It means the council must carefully prioritise what it spends to ensure it continues to meet its financial and social challenges, as well as supporting the wellbeing of residents and a thriving local economy.

Underlying demand for Children’s Services and Adult Services will cost a further £6.6million in 2019/20 (before savings and once-off grants are taken into account).

The council has already saved £55.4m over the past five years and a further £17m is expected in 2018/19 – giving a total of £72.4m savings over the past six years.

Councillor Charles Gerrish, Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency said: “The council tax we are proposing is among the lowest in the region and it allows us to deliver a balanced budget which means that the council’s reserves are not being used to meet the increasing demands of on-going expenditure.

“However the scale of the financial challenge means some fundamental changes will be required to the way in which services are delivered and the way we work with our residents.  It means we will continue to make efficiency savings as well as increase our commercial income in order to establish a core of quality services that can be sustained into the future. This is a responsible approach for the long term and is in the best interest of the council and its residents.”

Councillor Tim Warren, Council Leader, added: “Like all local authorities we are facing some very tough decisions however Bath and North East Somerset remains an attractive and vibrant area with a strong economy that attracts investment and we are working with partners like WECA to ensure we secure more homes, employment and the right infrastructure so we can improve life chances for local people.

“We are also lobbying central government for powers to introduce a levy on local tourism and short-term holiday lettings, and we are seeking compensation for the loss of council funding for student households and these issue are now gathering pace nationally with the Local Government Association supporting these proposals.

“And we have set up our own housing company, Aequus Construction Ltd (ACL Ltd), to invest in new housing for Bath and North East Somerset, to both deliver new homes and generate income for the council.”

By 2020/21, Revenue Support Grant (RSG) received from central government will have reduced to zero – from £21m in 2015-16. This comes in the context of challenges such as the rapid growth in the number of both vulnerable young people and older people needing social care support – with 82p in every £1 spent by the authority going to adult and children’s services.

A budget report before cabinet on February 6 also outlines proposals for capital investment which would see investment in

  • Rural affordable  homes schemes,
  • Extracare housing and a shared housing initiative for young people.
  • £1.15 million for Disabled Facilities Grant to help people live independently in their homes;
  • £3.666m on highway maintenance
  • £1.61 million of highway improvements
  • £1.2m on renovated  site for additional education provision for secondary age pupils
  • Almost £800,000 over two years to replace the passenger transport fleet for home to school and social services needs.

For more details about the budget proposals link to papers https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=4662

The proposed budget will be considered by the council’s cabinet on 6 February. The council’s final budget will then be considered by councillors at a full council meeting on Tuesday 19 February.

Commenting upon the budget proposals – in a way a Conservative manifesto for the May elections –

Lib Dem Group Leader, Councillor Dine Romero, commented:

“These budget proposals are telling the same story as we’ve heard for the last four years of this Conservative Council.

“B&NES residents are being asked to pay more in maxed out Council tax, in fees and charges, and in the extra precept for adult social care. In return they are seeing cuts to vital services such as libraries and waste.

“These cuts are coming down from a Conservative government and are being implemented by a Conservative-run Council.”