Council prepares for difficult year
Published on 8th December 2015
Councillors will be discussing the draft budget report when it goes to cabinet on 15 December 2015.
If approved, the spending proposals for 2016/17 will go out to a 5 week public consultation before the final budget goes to full council on 12 February 2016.
The council is preparing for a financially difficult year, against a background of declining government funding for local councils and rising costs.
• Its draft budget for 2016/17 identifies £738,000 of efficiency savings in the coming year and there are plans to save a further £657,000 a year over the following three years by sharing more of its services with neighbouring councils.
• For the first time since 2010 there will also be a small increase in the borough council’s share of council tax. The increase of just under 2 per cent will take the borough element of council tax up to £190.84 for the average Band D taxpayer, an increase of £3.72 a year.
• However, car park charges will be frozen for a sixth year running and there will also be no increase in garden waste charges.
• There will also be no cuts in front-line services.
Councillor John Rawson, cabinet member for finance said: “Since we last increased council tax, inflation has increased by about 13 per cent. Our government core funding (revenue support grant and business rates income) has been cut by almost half, from £8.8 million to £4.6 million a year. According to the Chancellor’s recent announcement, our grant funding will fall again in the coming year, with further reductions in the following three years.
“We also face a short-term problem in the coming year, because a number of sites that are being redeveloped will not be paying business rates. This will put itself right in due course and bring very valuable benefits to the town in the longer term, but we estimate that it will reduce our business rates income next year by about £285,000.”
“In response to these challenges, we have worked tirelessly to cut costs and make savings in this budget. However, we have reached the point where continuing to freeze council tax will threaten the local services that people value. Our overriding responsibility has to be to protect local services, even if it means a modest increase in council tax.”
Councillor Rawson adds that there will be very little room for growth in spending in the coming year. However, he says, there will be progress in a number of directions.
“We will be pressing ahead with some major projects, such as the plans for a new and improved crematorium and the new state-of-the-art children’s play area in Pittville Park. We will be investing £600,000 in repairing and maintaining council buildings, including the Town Hall and Pump Room. We will also be continuing with our popular and highly effective community pride scheme of grants to community groups who want to improve their own communities.
“We are also setting aside some money to strengthen the planning service and support the creation of a Business Improvement District in the town centre, both of which will help the growth of our local economy. The government has promised that councils will gain a bigger share of business rates income over the coming years, which is one more reason why we want to do all we can to boost economic growth.”
There will be a five week period of consultation on the draft budget, starting on 16 December 2015 and closing on 20 January 2016. A questionnaire will be on the council’s website at www.cheltenham.gov.uk/budget during that period and will be available as paper copies at the Municipal Offices and other council premises. A residents’ forum will also be held in the Pittville Room at the Municipal Offices on Thursday 14 January at 7pm.
Public comments will be taken into account by the cabinet when putting forward their final budget proposals, which will come to the full council for approval on Friday 12 February 2016.
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