Budget proposals to keep council tax low and protect services resident value
Proposals include a £5 a year increase to the average council tax bill. The £131.42 per year proposed as the average borough council part of the council tax for 2021/22 is likely to make it the lowest of the districts in Hampshire, and most of the rest of the country, again.
This will be subject to confirmation of referendum limits for 2021/22 which is set by the government.
Despite this, the council still has one of the highest spend per heads of districts in England and the highest of districts in Hampshire. This is being achieved alongside rising costs and demand for services and a huge reduction in government funding.
Like many others across the country, the council’s budget has also been put under further pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with falling income and extra costs to provide support during this unprecedented time.
Maintaining services that residents value, including weekly bin collections, community safety patrols and keeping areas looking their best, are funded as part of considering the proposals put forward to help balance the budget next year.
This includes previous commitments for additional funding to increase community safety patrols and a new scheme for councillors to support small-scale projects in their communities, which were delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help fund services, as well as a small increase in council tax, a 3% average increase in fees and charges to help pay for the costs of these services without putting the burden on council tax payers is proposed.
Over the last 11 years £15.1 million in savings have been made while protecting services, with the borough council continuing to look at how it can run more efficiently.
Ahead of an expected 1.92 million budget gap in 2024/25, additional savings and income of £3.21 million have been identified in 2021/22, increasing to £3.77 million by 2024/25.
Additional cost pressures of £2.15 million in 2021/22 reducing to £1.60 million in 2024/25 have also been included in considering the budget proposals. To help address this, proposals include the use of previously approved reserves allocations of £1.26 million in 2021/22 and £1.42 million between 2022 and 2025.
Cabinet Member for Finance and Service Improvement Cllr Hannah Golding said: “Residents’ priorities are at the heart of everything we do and our proposals continue to focus on what matters most to our communities as well ensuring we are well placed to prepare for the borough’s future as we work alongside our partners to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our proposed budget plans for the coming year will continue to make us a low council tax borough despite having one of the highest spending per head on services of all districts in the country.
“Although we have a history of strong financial management, we are having to make difficult decisions with reductions in funding and rising costs and demand for our services to ensure we can continue to provide services in the future. With a £1.03 million budget gap in 2021/22, we are awaiting confirmation of government funding to help address this as part of its annual spending review.
“Alongside this we are continuing to look at the opportunities we have to address funding gaps in the future, including how we work to ensure we continue to be as efficient as possible and our services continue to meet the needs of our residents.”
Following the Cabinet meeting, residents, businesses and groups will be asked to share their views on the proposals from next Wednesday (11 November) by visiting www.basingstoke.gov.uk/budget2020.