Somerset councils protect key services through council tax
Two Somerset district councils have set budgets without cutting front-line services, but one has done so and frozen its proportion of council tax, while the other has put its proportion of the tax up by 3.4 per cent.
Sedgemoor is an official “low cost” council, and the designation means it will not raise Government disapproval with a 3.4 per cent rise. The increase, will add £135.09 a year to the tax cost of an average band D property.
Mendip District Council has managed to freeze its level of council tax for a fourth year, with the help of innovative contracts which include turning its headquarters in Shepton Mallet into a public sector hub, which could bring gross revenue savings of £7 million over 20 years.
Sedgemoor’s budget gives more money for homelessness and community grants and puts further £394, 000 into further investment
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The council will make £250,000 available for the Empty Homes initiative. This provides improvement loans to private sector landlords to bring properties back into use to help families on the housing waiting list.
An additional £45,000 has been earmarked for homelessness. The cash will reduce the impact on those at greatest risk and avoid the social costs of emergency temporary accommodation. Sedgemoor acknowledges the vital role of the voluntary sector in helping hard-pressed families such as the CAB, Home Start and Credit Union and so a total pot of £70,000 will be available for such organisations to apply to for aid.
The funding gap of £650,000 has been closed by a number of measures including freezing external appointments, unpaid leave, managed use of balances and cutting senior management costs.
When councillors in Mendip approved the Medium Term Financial Plan on Thursday night they were told that the council faces a reduction in its budget of around £1.4m for 2013/14, on top of savings of approximately £4m that have had to be made over the previous two years.
Council leader Harvey Siggs said that, despite the challenges, the council was well positioned to once again provide a balanced budget through efficiency savings and innovative contractual arrangements, including turning its headquarters into a public service hub for organisations including Avon and Somerset Police and Somerset County Council.
He continued: “In these times of austerity, local authorities are facing huge financial challenges. Ensuring Mendip remains a place in which people want to live and do business are key priorities for the council and we will have to continue to look at how we can provide our services at the best possible cost to the taxpayer.
“Fortunately, I feel that as a council we are as well placed as we could be to tackle the financial challenges facing us now and in the future, while continuing to provide first-rate services to the people of Mendip.”