A Balanced Budget Despite a Challenging Year
South Hams District Council has used excellent financial management yet again to balance the budget. They have maintained essential services and funded key projects, despite the unprecedented challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the Full Council meeting on Thursday 11 February, councillors voted for a budget, which put money aside for both services and key issues, which are important to the District's residents.
As part of the budget, councillors agreed to a small increase in Council Tax of £5 per year, meaning a Band D property would pay £175.42 this year to the District Council for all of its services.
This amounts to a total of £3.37 per week for the average household to ensure that key services continue such as
- recycling and refuse,
- housing and homelessness,
- dog fouling,
- food hygiene,
- fly tipping,
- tree preservation,
- leisure centres; and
- play parks
These are only some of the essential services that the District Council offers for only one-tenth of the annual Council Tax bill. Most of these services, many residents may not even realise the District Council provides for them.
A further commitment of £200,000 has been put towards the Council's Climate Change and Biodiversity goal to be carbon free by 2030 and to work with the community to make the District net-zero by 2050, at the latest.
A further £500,000 will support the Council's Recovery and Renewal Plans to help the community 'build back better' from the wide ranging impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Council will also be lending their backing to local community and voluntary organisations through £10,000 of funding for the Community Volunteer Service (CVS) in recognition of the important work they carry out.
Further allocated funding has been made available for the creation of four new seasonal posts within the Localities Team, for the busy spring and summer tourism season. Their community role includes ensuring the local area is kept environmentally clean and safe. They also ensure that litter and dog bins are emptied, and toilet blocks are hygienic. They help to keep both residents and visitors protected within COVID restrictions, especially at popular tourist destinations.
£2,380,000 has been set aside for a Capital Works Programme for a range of projects. This funding includes private sector renewals for eligible residents' homes, including Disabled Facility Grants (DFGs). DFGs range from stairlifts to level access showers to support independent living within the home.
A previously agreed annual contribution towards a Waste fleet replacement programme is included in this fund, as well as provision of car parking next to the Dartmouth Health and Wellbeing Hub.
Along with other businesses and industry, it has been a very difficult time for Local Government finances and district councils are more strained than ever, with more financial uncertainty likely in the coming years.
A number of recent changes to Government funding means the Council no longer receives any Government Grant (Revenue Support Grant) and therefore has to be self-sufficient to fund all of its services on a budget of £9.68m.
Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: "It's been a difficult year for councils, along with other service industries, but we have managed to hold firm and continue to deliver our services throughout.
"We are increasing Council Tax by £5 per year, which is only 10p per week, per household, but this small increase will make a really big difference in our ability to provide essential services and projects.
"Local Government finances are increasingly stretched and there is a great deal of financial uncertainty for District Councils from 2021 onwards and the next few years will continue to be challenging.
"As part of our Revenue Budget Proposals, we are also allocating £500,000 for funding the Recovery and Renewal Plan. There is also £200,000 towards Climate Change and Biodiversity measures to ensure we're moving forward in our commitment to being carbon net-zero. Both of these amounts are one-off amounts of money to be taken from the Council's Earmarked Reserves and New Homes Bonus funding.
"Strong financial management over many years and the continual drive for efficiency has enabled the Council to accommodate service pressures while still maintaining a low level of Council Tax."
The District Council is responsible for the collection of Council Tax on behalf of a number of statutory services including Fire, Police, County Council and Town and Parish Councils. The Tax is split between these organisations, with the District Council's contribution being only 9% of the total amount.
Some confusion arises over services such as highways and potholes, education, social care and health, which come under the umbrella of the County Council under their share of Council Tax.
In March, the Council are also looking forward to the roll out, area by area, of the new and improved waste and recycling service, aimed at increasing the amount of materials the District recycles. In the new service, glass and plastics will be collected from the kerbside and will do much to reduce the District's carbon footprint.
Cllr Judy Pearce, added: "Projects such as helping the CVS continue to support local groups and charities. Providing extra Locality Officers during peak times, to ensure that our residents and visitors enjoy the South Hams safely and to help with community engagement, along with COVID and environmental measures."
Find out more about the services the District Council provides, here: www.southhams.gov.uk/article/4400/What-we-do
Read more about our budgets here: Budgets and Spending - South Hams District Council