Sorry to add another chill wind to the freezing weather surrounding us but this is more an economic forecast than a weather one.
Residents are being invited to have their say on Bath & North East Somerset Council’s draft financial plans for next year and it’s a bit of a stark choice. The council must go for an increase in council tax of 4.99 per cent or make further cuts in its services.
These financial plans set out the changes the council is proposing to balance its budget for 2023-24, as required by law.
Councillor Richard Samuel, deputy leader and cabinet member for Resources, said: “We are going into this budget in a stronger position than many other councils, because we have managed our finances well over the past three years. However, we still have some difficult decisions to make in the light of spiralling costs, social care pressures and the challenging economic climate particularly uncontrolled inflation.
“We are also facing a significant increase in demand for services, such as children’s social care. In the last 18 months the number of looked after children has risen by more than 30 per cent.
“The draft budget income and savings proposals which we have published today includes additional income of £5.23m and savings of £4.43m, alongside new spending to address inflation and pay increases plus demographic pressures in areas such as home to school transport totalling £16.06m. If all items in the list of emerging savings and income generation items were to be approved, there would remain a gap in drawing up the budget of £5.4m for 2023/24. This gap would need to be met by increasing council tax up to the limits set by the government or proposing further savings.
“However, as we draw up our detailed budget package to present to cabinet and Council in February next year, we want to hear what you think about any aspect of the budget.
As part of the consultation the council is asking whether residents support an increase in Council Tax by 4.99% in preference to further budget reductions.
Following the Chancellor’s budget announcement, the Council Tax precept limit has been raised by 2%, split equally across general Council Tax and the Adult Social Care precept. Adult Social Care needs £3.2m next year just to maintain services and the 2% Adult Social Care element of the 4.99% Council Tax increase will generate an extra £2.4m to help fund this.
The Chancellor has also announced some additional grant funding for social care. The council estimates that the amount allocated to the council that does not come with specific new spending requirements will be around £3.3m. This funding will contribute to the rising costs of social care and enable us to close the budget gap without the need for additional savings from the ones we are consulting on.
The council is also consulting on proposals to increase the thresholds which determine the amount of support people get through our Income-Banded Local Council Tax Support scheme.
Councillor Samuel said: “In these challenging times we need to focus our support on the most vulnerable. As well as asking for views on our budget plans, we are also consulting on proposals to increase the thresholds for Council Tax support in line with the 10.1% increase in Universal Credit. This would mean that residents in receipt of benefits or on low wages do not drop out of the scheme as they have an inflationary uplift in their income.”
More information on these Income-Banded Local Council Tax Support scheme proposals and the consultation can be found at https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/local-council-tax-support-scheme-consultation
The draft savings and income generation proposals can be found here In summary:
- More than a third of the savings and additional income being put forward is proposed to come from the Deputy Leader and Resources area including an increase in income from the council’s corporate and commercial estate, a reduction in council running costs and reprofiling capital projects.
- Another third is identified from further additional income – including from Heritage Services, as the visitor economy returns post Covid, and from Leisure Services. The proposals include Inflationary uplifts to charges in Neighbourhoods Services, as well as additional income due to more recycling. Additional income would also come from inflationary uplifts to charges in Transport, the recovery of parking demand to pre-pandemic levels and new Residents Parking Zines, all of which would also generate income to help fund investment in highways and transport.
- Proposals in the Adult Services and Council House Building portfolio include a review of care packages so they match needs in an affordable way, maximising grant and other income and a restructure of the safeguarding team following its move in-house. Children’s Services’ savings proposals will see a focus on preventative services including an extension of Family Group Conferencing, as well as a review of service funding arrangements.
- Other proposed savings and additional income include reducing consultancy spend and operational costs in Neighbourhood Services and removing vacant posts in Waste and Fleet Services. Savings would also be found by the removal of vacant posts in the Transport portfolio.
To take part in the consultation on the draft budget proposals please go to https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/budget-consultation-2023-2024
The consultation is will close at 5pm on Friday 20 January 2023. Following the consultation detailed budget proposals will be drawn up for scrutiny and consideration by councillors at the following meetings:
- Corporate Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel on 23rd January
- Cabinet on 9th February
Final decisions about the 2023 to 2024 budget will be made at our Budget and Council Tax meeting on 21st February.
Information about all budget meetings is listed on our calendar web page. Meetings will also be live-streamed and available to view on our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on social media or sign-up to our weekly e-newsletter to keep up to date with our news.