There is still time for South Gloucestershire residents, council tax and business rate payers to have their say on the council’s budget and council tax for 2017/18.
This year’s consultation has been amended to include a new question about changes to the social care precept, introduced by the Government for the first time last year. Initially set at 2 per cent, South Gloucestershire Council added the charge to council tax bills to help fund increasing demand for care services for older people.
The Government has now announced that councils can set the precept at up to 3 per cent, so long as the cumulative increase is no more than 6 per cent over the next three financial years. We want to hear residents’ views before making decisions on next year’s budget.
Councils have been given flexibility by the Government on how they implement the precept. For example, it could remain at 2 per cent for three years, or at 3 per cent for two years and fall to zero in the third year. The amount raised, whether the precept was set at 2 per cent for three years or two years at 3 per cent and then at zero, would be broadly the same. However, if the rate was set at 3 per cent for two years, that income would be raised more quickly, generating an additional £3.7m of funding over the two years for investment in adult social care improvement.
The consultation also asks local people to consider the council’s ongoing savings programme and this year is also asking for people’s views on any potential devolution deals in the future.
The council provides a wide range of services and expects to spend in the region of £541m in the next financial year on areas including refuse collection, street cleaning, planning, social care and road maintenance, and incorporating around £189m on schools.
During the last six years up to the end of this year, we will have reduced council spending by more than £63m through a range of efficiency measures. Wherever possible, this has been done with a priority to protect frontline services from spending reductions while delivering better value for money to residents.
We anticipate, however, that we need to continue to reduce our spending and have already provisionally identified £14m of further savings that we will need to make by 2019/20. More work will also be needed to identify where an extra £13m of savings can also be made over the same period to meet the remaining shortfall between expected income and current spending to balance the books.
Last year, following five years of council tax ‘freezes’, the council chose to increase the rate by 1.99 per cent. We also chose to add the extra 2 per cent adult social care precept. The current draft budget includes both of those measures once again this year, as we enter the seventh year of national austerity measures.
Chair of the council’s Resources Sub-Committee Cllr John Goddard said: “As a council we have a strong track record of delivering efficient, value for money services to our residents. We also know that we need to continue to make savings, but we are committed to continuing to protect as best we can the key services our residents and businesses rely upon.
“I am pleased to learn that we have already had a good response to this consultation process and that feedback will help us to prioritise how we allocate funds for the year ahead. As the information available to us changes, however, we want to share that with local people and to hear from them based on the latest developments.
“I want to encourage council tax and business rate payers to take part in this consultation process as we set not just the budget in terms of how much we allocate to a particular service, but more broadly to let us know about the priorities they would like us to apply in making the decisions ahead.”
Further information is available online at
www.southglos.gov.uk/consultations or from your local South Gloucestershire library and One Stop Shop.
You can also send us an email to: email@example.com; write to: FREEPOST Plus RTCT-JXLE-EET, South Gloucestershire Council, Corporate Research & Consultation Team, Budget Consultation 2017/18, Civic Centre, High Street, Kingswood, BRISTOL, BS15 9TR, or call: 01454 868009. If you would like someone to talk to your group or organisation about this consultation, please contact us using the details above to arrange. The consultation closes on 23 January 2017.