At the start of each year the District Council considers and set its budget for the year ahead and that is very much central to the Councils proposals now and into the future.
There are services that SDC are obliged to provide to residents, such as emptying the recycling and general waste bins and looking after the homeless. There are other discretionary services that it chooses to provide such as leisure facilities.
Of the funding and income that SDC received, only 40% of that comes from Council Tax. We are very much reliant on the majority coming from Central Government.
Central Government is increasingly shifting the financial burden to District Councils. In contrast, other public bodies (including WCC) will see their budgets increased including the NHS, social care, education and the criminal justice system. Central Government has already, and will continue, to reduce the amount of money it will provide to SDC. For example, in 2020/21 SDC will receive £5.3m from the New Homes Bonus. In 3 years’ time this will have been reduced to zero.
SDC is already budgeting to use £1.5m of its reserves to balance its budget in 2020/21. By the end of the year it will have reserves of £12.5m. Because of the reduction of Central Government funding over the next 3 years, SDC’s reserves are likely to be halved to £6.3m. The absolute minimum level of reserves is £2.5m. If SDC proposes to set a budget with less than this level of reserves, our Section 151 Officer will not sign it off.
SDC only keeps a fraction of the Council Tax it collects. This is a breakdown of where it all goes:
- Parish Councils 3.4%
- SDC 7.8%
- Police and Crime Commissioner 11.5%
- Warwickshire County Council 77.3%
If SDC does not generate more money locally over the next 3 years, as the Local Government Peer Review in 2019 advocated it should, it will still be required to balance its budget over succeeding years, predominantly by reducing the level of discretionary services it is currently able to provide. Some residents will lose services as a result.
This is why the intention is to increase the amount of the SDC element of the Council Tax for 2020/21 by £5 per band D household (a 3.6% increase across all bandings), as well as introducing a charge of £40 per year for the collection of green bin waste for those residents who want to continue to use this service.
SDC is asking residents to pay more, not because it likes doing so, but to protect the services it currently provides and because it believes this is the responsible thing to do in the long-term interests of all the residents of the District.
There are four other key items that I would like to draw resident’s attention to and they are:
A one-off budgeted amount of £1.6m towards a review and potential replacement of our existing Core Strategy. The current strategy sets out the Districts plans until 2031 and it is a requirement to keep that strategy up to date. This budgeted items will allow for that review and bringing the existing Core Strategy into line with new national and local policies.
A one-off budgeted item of £500,000 toward the Climate Emergency. More detail of that is shown later in this report but this is a clear signal from the Council that is it taking its responsibility seriously.
Two ongoing budgeted items for the UBUS service (£110k) and the Fred Winter homeless support project (£60k).
In December the Council approved plans to introduce a £40 per year charge for the collection of green waste across the district. Whilst this has not necessarily been universally well received, it is a necessity for the Council to continue to provide its service given the budget constraints and reduction in Government Grants.
Finally, there has been some reports in the press about an increase to car parking charges – specifically the OAP parking permit. Within the budget papers there is no increase to parking charges and if there were to be an increase it is a statutory obligation for the Council to conduct a public consultation. It is likely that such a consultation will be put out to the public in the coming weeks.
Additional to our own budget, WCC, Parishes and the Police and Crime Commissioner will be setting their own budgets for the coming year. The PCC have made public a consultation on their precept. That can be found at:www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/precept20-21