Council tax rise inevitable

Though its yet to be ‘signed off’ – expect to dig deeper into your household budget for an increase in council tax this year.

B&NES blame the national economic situation and government underfunding but insist front line services are being protected in the proposed budget despite unprecedented inflationary costs and spiralling post-pandemic demand.

The council’s proposed spending plans, drawn up following consultation with residents, go before cabinet on Thursday 9 February. Once finalised the proposed budget will be presented to full Council on Tuesday 21 February.

Councillor Richard Samuel, deputy leader and cabinet member for Resources said: “The dire national economic situation and continued underfunding of local services by the government means that options have been very limited this year for balancing the books. Fortunately, our tight control over the council’s finances over the past four years means we have been able to avoid damaging cuts to services and redundancies. Our proposed budget aims to protect lower income residents as far as possible from further cost increases and at the same time invests for the future while ensuring the majority of residents don’t notice any significant change to the council services they rely on.

“To help counter rising costs and balance our books we’ve identified more than £14m of savings and additional income, but the simple fact is our money doesn’t go as far as it did in the past and if we are to deliver and invest in services that matter to residents a Council Tax rise is inevitable. Our proposed increase is still well below the current rate of inflation, and we currently have the third lowest Council Tax rate of all unitary authorities in the South West.”

The Government has allowed councils greater flexibility in how they set their Council Tax this year. Bath & North East Somerset Council is proposing a general Council Tax increase of 2.99%, which equates to an increase of £47.10 for a Band D property.  The increase is in addition to a 2% increase in the Social Care Precept, which is ring-fenced to support Adult Social Care services. For a Band D property this would result in a below inflation total annual increase of 4.99% or £78.60 (£1.51 per week).

The council is proposing to set a net revenue budget of £131.03m. New funding includes:

  • £1m to keep our neighbourhoods clean and green together with additional funds for local highways schemes
  • £281k to support local bus services, ensuring the continuation of the supported bus network in Bath and also a two-month extension to 5 key supported bus routes outside of Bath, where the Metro Mayor is introducing a new demand-responsive minibus services.
  • £1.1m to meet the increasing demand for Home to School Transport.
  • £2.1m to meet increased demand for Children’s Services.

Over the next five years the council has made provision for £337m  investment in capital projects to meet its priorities. New additions and increases in the capital budget include:

  • £2.5m to provide additional affordable housing.
  • £1.3m to increase bed capacity at the Cleeve Court and Combe Lea care homes to meet growing demand.
  • £7.8m each year for highways maintenance.
  • £2.2m transport improvements.
  • £6.7m for additional SEND provision.
  • £5.1m to improve cycling and walking facilities.
  • £2.7m towards Keynsham’s new recycling centre, due to open this year.
  • £400k for Park & Ride site improvements.
  • £423k to improve the biodiversity and accessibility of the Somer Valley.
  • £2.3m for the removal of the Pipe Bridge on Bath Western Riverside.

The council also plans to invest in its key priorities with additional funding to increase bed capacity in its care homes and to provide additional school places to meet growing demand.

Councillor Samuel added: “In recognition of the impact on our most vulnerable residents we are changing the rules on Local Council Tax Support to enable more people to access the scheme. The council will continue to administer the Household Support Fund that helps residents on low income with their energy costs and businesses will be supported through retail, hospitality, and leisure relief scheme with eligible businesses getting 75% off their business rates bills. Our warm spaces project  will also help those experiencing the impact of high energy costs.”

In the budget £14.38m of savings and additional income streams have been identified, including:

  • £500k expected additional income from heritage services as visitor numbers increase post-pandemic.
  • £1.5m increase in income from the commercial estate.
  • £325k additional income from the increased sale of recyclables.
  • £790k additional income from parking and permit charges.
  • £712k additional income following review of CAZ Financial Assistance scheme and charges.
  • £4.8m savings in social care contributions to the learning disabilities pool
  • £400k savings in debt management.
  • £500k+ efficiency savings.

The council consulted residents asking for their views on the budget proposals and received 48 responses. While 60% opposed the proposed rise in Council Tax many said they recognised the challenging budget situation and felt there was no alternative.

The council has listened carefully to the feedback and has set out its interim responses in the report to cabinet. It will continue to listen to views, with final decisions made at the Council Budget and Council Tax meeting on 21 February. 

For more details about the budget proposals visit our website here    

To find out more about the background to the budget proposals, view our online briefing sessions:

Briefing Session 2nd November

Briefing Session 3rd November

You can also read our Medium Term Financial Strategy 2023/24 to 2027/27 for further details.

The budget will be discussed at the following meetings:

Cabinet: Thursday 9 February at 6.30pm, Council Chamber, Guildhall, Bath

Council Budget & Council Tax meeting: – Tuesday 21 February at 6.30pm, Council Chamber, Guildhall, Bath

Information about these meetings can be found on the council’s calendar web page

The meetings will also be live streamed on the council’s  YouTube channel