Let’s talk money

The Pandemic will continue to seriously impact our local council’s budget proposals for 2022 with a depressed High Street rents market and fall off in international tourism.

So residents are being invited to have their say on Bath & North East Somerset Council’s spending plans for the coming year at a special online Budget Forum.

The council faces a significant budget challenge for 2022/23 due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, an increase in demand for services, such as Children’s Social Care, recruitment and supply chain issues together with inflationary pressures.

During the online meeting at 6pm on Tuesday 14 December, the council’s Chief Finance Officer Andy Rothery, Chief Executive Will Godfrey and Councillor Richard Samuel, Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Resources and Economic Development will outline the council’s current financial position, the ongoing financial pressures it faces and how its proposing to spend its limited resources. The meeting will be chaired by the Leader of the council, Councillor Kevin Guy.

Councillor Richard Samuel said: “By law we must live within our means and balance our books. We have a good track record of making savings while still providing value for money and delivering our priorities, but the pressures we currently face mean that this year the task will be challenging.

“Covid continues to affect our finances. Our income from Commercial Estate  and Heritage Services has been severely impacted, resulting in an income budget reduction of circa £15m during 2021/22 while at the same time our costs went up with an increased demand for some services. But we’ve managed the crisis well, and despite having the fifth lowest Council Tax and Government Grant funding per resident of 150 councils, we have continued to deliver frontline services, helped people through the pandemic, invested in our priorities to improve people’s lives and replenished our reserves.

“Looking to the year ahead we’ve identified a budget gap of circa £15m. It means we are limited in our ability to take on new projects and spending and will have to make some hard choices about how we prioritise the money we have. We are rebasing our budgets to take into account current performance, have identified services where we need to address budget pressures and have drawn up options for savings and income generation with the least possible disruption to frontline services. 

“But we want to know what people think. The Budget Forum is a key part of our budget setting process and is your chance to ask questions and have your say on our proposals.”

Our plans

The Budget Forum will cover:

  • Council Tax
  • Demand pressures 
  • Income and savings proposals
  • Investment plans

The council is proposing to set a budget of £134.3m. 

This will include significant investment in Children’s and Adult Services –in education, increasing staffing levels to meet the demand for Children’s Services and funding care placements.

Additional funding would also be allocated to the Climate Emergency and Neighbourhood Services – expanding the council’s recycling teams to cope with the significant increase in kerbside and green waste being recycled by residents, and improving the pay of drivers, to increase retention amid the national HGV driver shortage and reduce the risk of missed collections.

The council has identified savings including efficiency savings in Adult Social Care and savings achieved through management of council vacancies.

Extra income is also predicted for the coming year – including increases in income from parking charges and the sale of recycled material.

Further information will be provided at the meeting.

How to get involved

The Zoom meeting will take place at 6pm on Tuesday 14 December. Please  register to take part by visiting: 

https://bathnes.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMldeygqDgtGNY-ZjDemXyIPmHj3HExf-ZQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. 

What happens next?

Following the Forum the council will draw up detailed budget proposals setting out its detailed spending plans for the year ahead. 

These will be scrutinised by councillors at the council’s Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels on Monday 10 and Monday 31 January. 

The proposals will then be considered by Cabinet on Thursday 10 February, with final decisions made at the Budget and Council Tax meeting on Tuesday 15 February.

Information about these meetings is listed on our calendar web page

1 Comment

  1. Let’s be frank, my last ‘involvement’ by way of a Council Zoom meeting found me listening to Councillor ‘talking heads’ congratulating themselves on their fiscal management under terribly difficult circumstances, circumstances apparently imposed on them by Central Government.
    In reality, what ‘success’ they actually have achieved was by cutting services, allowing infrastructure deterioration and taking the DfT’s ‘bribe’ to strengthen the Cleveland Bridge.
    I really don’t want to hear any more bleating from them about ‘budget challenges’. Budget challenges are a fact of life, hence the need to budget. Clearly none of them have ever worked in the private sector.
    If the Council intends not to engage on any new projects (which I applaud), let’s not hear of any more of new playgrounds at £2.2m, new bus gates, cycle lanes, LTN’s or LNs, ‘rings of steel’ and certainly no more ‘save the planet’ initiatives. All of those low-priority, Green vanity projects should cease immediately, even if they’ve already started – freeze them, we don’t have the money, the Council has said so itself.
    And our Council should ask itself ‘Why do we need to spend MORE on Childrens’ Services?’ If the Council provided an adequate service last year, with last year’s budget, just replicate that.
    As for increasing kerbside waste collection services – didn’t they cut that service from weekly to fortnightly collections of general waste. How are they going to save money by ramping them up again?
    Our Council needs to set out, and publish, a clear set of priorities/needs which should be :-
    1. Basic physiological needs – fundamental survival needs like clean air, clean water, adequate food, shelter, warmth, clothing for everyone. What one needs to stay alive without medical help.
    2. Safety & security needs – law and order, freedom from fear, social stability, property, health and wellbeing and a safe infrastructure.
    3. Needs beyond those are totally irrelevant until those two basic sets of needs are met, in full, by our Council.
    So, forget any further spend in 2021/22/23 and beyond on the Arts, Outdoor dining areas, eScooters, LTNs, LNs and all the other tosh that our Council clearly can’t afford. As our Councillors have said, it is against the law for them to spend beyond their means, and all that I have called ‘Tosh’ is beyond theirs and our means (otherwise they wouldn’t be complaining so bitterly about underfunding from Central Government).
    I implore them, just stop with the Politics and get on with fully meeting your Residents’ two basic sets of needs. You can start with Care Homes support, Homeless support(genuine homeless, not those bussed in from Bristol as begging gangs), and follow that up with keeping through-traffic out of our residential streets which you know is poisoning us, and properly policing our streets and public areas. And finally, being so skint, however does the Council they think they’d be able to offer immigrants what our own citizens can’t get from them, basic physiological needs.
    Has our Council the guts to stop being so magnanimous in funding ‘frippery’, and confine itself to the fundamentals of our lives. It may not be popular, but it would show integrity of governance.

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