Council prepares budget for consultation
Published on 19th December 2018
Deadline for comments: 25 January 2019
Cheltenham Borough Council is set to put forward its budget proposals for 2019/20 against a background of reducing government funding for local councils, although this year the council is financially in a much better standing.
At a cabinet meeting on 18 December 2018, the draft budget for 2019/20 was approved for consultation and the council is now asking for residents’ views on the proposals. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or written feedback can be handed in to: Executive director finance and assets, Municipal Offices, The Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 9SA.
This consultation will run until Friday 25 January 2019.
Cllr Rowena Hay, cabinet member for finance said: “In February 2018 we set ourselves a challenge to become an enterprising and commercially focused council which people are proud to work for and which others want to work with, working towards the objective of enabling it to become financially sustainable by the financial year 2021/22.
“In response to the difficult national funding situation, our overriding financial strategy has been, and is, to drive down the council’s costs. The aim is to hold down council tax as far as possible, now and in the longer term, while also protecting frontline services from cuts – an immensely challenging task in the present climate.
“Part of our drive towards financial sustainability includes identifying new opportunities to generate income and investment in projects which provide good financial returns. Our commercial strategy aligns closely with other key strategies including place-making, economic growth, digital transformation, workforce and skills development, investment and asset management which have a combined message that Cheltenham Borough Council has entered a new era of business enterprise, growth and innovation. We wish to work with partners who share our ambition and values and will continue to put the best interests of Cheltenham residents at the heart of everything we do.’’
Cllr Hay continued: “The key mechanism for carrying out this strategy is the commercial strategy, which seeks to bring service costs in line with available funding and seek additional forms of funding. The development of a new crematoria, and the acquisitions of 4 new commercial investment properties (Ellenborough House, Sainsbury’s, Café Nero and 53-57 Rodney Road) has already resulted in us over-achieving our new revenue income target. In addition, our public realm investment across the town has enabled us to attract major new businesses such as John Lewis and Partners which has a positive effect on both business rates income and the vibrancy across the town.
“The starting point for the 2019/20 budget has been a projected funding gap of £2.019m. Closing a gap of this size is a huge challenge for the council, but the challenge is being met by a proactive approach to identifying efficiencies and additional income, carried out by the cabinet and the executive management team. This work has already made significant progress towards closing the gap, having identified at this early stage potential efficiencies and additional income of £1.621k, leaving £398k to fund from reserves, assuming a 2.99% council tax increase is approved.
“The outcome of this budget has been based on a number of substantive consultations throughout the year and we would like to know the public’s views on our strategy for closing the financial gap created by cuts from central government.”
Paul Jones, executive director finance and assets added: “Having received the provisional local government settlement late last week, we are pleased to note that government has recognised our request to make no changes to the new homes bonus next year and has provided some additional money for those councils in need. As a consequence, the council has an additional £190k to support the 2019/20 budget proposals.”
Following the consultation, the responses will be reviewed by the council’s cabinet, and a final budget will be prepared for consideration at council on 18 February 2019.
The full council will be meeting to set the budget, taking into account feedback from the budget consultation process, on Monday 18 February at 2.30pm in the Municipal Offices. At this meeting, council will also agree the level of council tax, taking into account the requirements of Gloucestershire County Council and the Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner.
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The cabinet’s intends to meet the shortfall in funding in 2019/20 from the budget strategy (support) earmarked reserve in order to deliver a balanced budget. This will give the council more time to deliver its long-term strategy for delivering the substantial savings required:
- The draft budget has had to close a funding gap of gap of £2.019m;
- Our draft budget proposes to fund a gap of £398,000 from the budget strategy (support) earmarked reserve;
- The cabinet are also proposing to increase the council tax by £6.07 based on a band D property which equates to a 2.99% increase;