South Gloucestershire residents, council tax and business rate payers are being invited to have their say on the council’s budget and council tax for 2020/21.
The council provides a wide range of services and expects to spend in the region of £632m in the next financial year on areas including schools, refuse collection, street cleaning, planning, social care and road maintenance. This budget is based on an assumed central Government contribution of £76.9m towards general services and £227.5m specifically for schools.
We had been expecting a 3.27 per cent fall in resources between 2019/20 and 2020/21, due to the loss of the business rates pilot and the uncertainty around one-off grants continuing. The current proposals, which were updated following the Government Spending Round that extended the business rates pilot and laid out the 2020/21 grants, actually provides a 6.8 per cent increase in available funding in 2020/21. Additional funding from the Spending Round in 2020/21, is around £14.3m, which is split between £11.4m on a one-off basis and £2.9m in recurrent funding, should the council proceed with the new adult social precept.
While this is an outline budget at this stage, based on a series of assumptions about demand for services and other factors, each year the public are encouraged to comment on the council’s priorities and council tax levels for the coming year.
As we continue our drive to keep services sustainable for the future, the council is proposing to repeat last year’s council tax increase of 1.99 per cent to help cover increased costs in providing services, coupled with a new adult social care precept of 2 per cent following the recent government proposal. This will help us meet the ever-growing demand for services, particularly those that support the most vulnerable in our community.
It is anticipated that these changes will mean an increase of approximately £59.22 per year in overall council tax bills (or equivalent to £4.94 per month) for a band D household. Despite increases in previous years, our medium term financial planning indicates we will need to make more savings over the next four years to keep pace with increasing cost pressures. Until we have certainty about potential further funding increases in the future, we have to treat those announced this year as one-off, if we are to responsibly balance our books.
Since 2011, we have made cumulative savings of nearly £87m in annual spending through a range of efficiency measures. Wherever possible, this work has prioritised protecting frontline services from spending reductions, while delivering better value for money to residents. Based on this approach, we have developed a Transformation and Savings Programme to help us meet the budget challenges ahead. It will allow time for meaningful consultation with staff as well as with the public, depending on the saving being proposed, and sustainable implementation, so that we can set budgets with confidence and not have to make short term, in-year cuts.
The medium term financial plan assumes savings of £15m expected from the Council’s Transformation and Savings Programmes between 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Even with the assumption that the full savings plan is achieved, there is still a predicted budget gap amounting to £11.9m by 2023/24. This means that work is ongoing to identify further potential savings in order to balance the books.
In setting out the budget for 2020/21 and in planning for future years, the council makes projections about future events, based on a best assessment of the position at the time.
Most notably we will need to review the council’s overall financial position later this year in light of:
- The provisional Local Government Finance Settlement (this sets out the level of funding the Government gives to each local authority and what they specify certain parts of that money can be spent on), which we expect in December 2019
- Developments as the Government progresses with leaving the EU
- The general UK economy
- The budget-setting process of the West of England Combined Authority
- Changes to the Local Government Finance System and the Fair Funding Review
Further information about these factors can be found in the Cabinet papers considered on 7 October (https://council.southglos.gov.uk/documents/s111859/Draft%20Revenue%20Budget%20Report%20202021-202324.pdf).
South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet Member for Resources, Councillor Ben Burton, said: “We welcome the recent one-year spending review for 2020/21 and real terms funding increase this sets out for local government and look forward to the longer term budget certainty that a multi-year spending review can bring from 2021/22 onwards.
“We are totally committed to delivering the services that our communities need and rely on. Our top priorities are to deliver the best possible educational outcomes for all of our young people; to maintaining and improving the places where we live; and to achieving the very best value for money the public money we spend.
“In the face of continually increasing demand for the services needed by the most vulnerable in our society, the young and the old, we need to balance delivering those services and ensuring we get value for every pound we spend, with balancing the books. And that is why each year we ask residents to let us know about their views and priorities as we plan for the future.”
People can share their views in the following ways:
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- By completing a consultation survey (available to complete online or download from the council website: https://consultations.southglos.gov.uk/consult.ti/Budget20/consultationHome
- By writing to: Freepost RTXL-YJXJ-BXEX, South Gloucestershire Council, Corporate Research & Consultation Team, Council offices, Badminton Road, Yate, Bristol, BS37 5AF
- By telephoning 01454 868154.
The consultation closes on 5 January 2020 and the results will be considered by full Council on 12 February 2020.