District Council finances are in a good position moving forwards

South Hams District Council have finished the year with their finances in a good position moving ahead to the future. 

At their Executive meeting on Thursday 21 September, councillors heard how the Council has published its draft accounts for 2022/23 which show there was a small surplus of just £57,000 (0.5%) against a net budget of £10.464m for 2022/23. 

This puts the Council in a good position moving forwards. The Executive also heard how the Council is within 27% of Councils nationally who have also had their previous year’s accounts for 2021/22 signed off by the external auditor. The accounts are essential to show how public funds are used to deliver Council services. 

In 2022/23 the Council faced additional costs and a shortfall of income of £1.9m. Many of these costs were a result of the current economic climate with high inflation and the cost of living crisis. The extra costs came from inflation pressures, utility, IT and extra insurance, the local government pay award and a shortfall in planning income. 

These extra costs and shortfall in income were balanced by the Council generating additional investment income. This income of over £1m, taking advantage of high interest rates, came from the careful planning and management of the Council’s cash funds. The Council also received more income of £0.9m from its car parks and the Dartmouth Lower Ferry, along with income from our business units. 

There were also exceptional one-off costs of £1.5m from the Council bringing the Waste and Recycling Service back in-house in October last year. This had support from across the political parties and the one-off amount was funded by Reserves. A further £0.5m was spent on one-off project costs for the Waste and Recycling Service and the Council received funding towards these costs. 

There has been a huge improvement in performance for the Waste and Recycling Service. In February 2023, for the first time in over three years, the Service achieved the national target of no more than 80 missed bins per 100,000 collections. 

Over the past year, the cost of living has been difficult for residents, with high inflation and ever-increasing household bills, particularly in relation to energy. The Council has supported communities, residents and businesses during these difficult economic times. 

The Council agreed a Cost of Living Action Plan, working alongside partners to publish weekly newspaper articles signposting residents on where to go for support.

A scheme was also launched providing electric blankets and slow cookers to residents in need.  £4.2million of Council Tax Energy Support payments were processed quickly to get £150 payments into the pockets of 28,175 households within the District. 

Support programmes for those who have fled the war in Ukraine were developed to help 220 guests from Ukraine who have arrived in the District as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. 

The last financial year also saw the opening of the Dartmouth Health Hub, where the Council worked in partnership with the NHS Trust, to deliver a modern GP facility for residents.  The Hub opened on Tuesday 9 May and is providing access to a broad range of Health and Wellbeing Services under one roof, including community nurses, therapists, Dartmouth Caring and Wellbeing Pharmacy. 

Cllr Julian Brazil, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “Our vision for the South Hams is a place where people can thrive, resilient in the face of an increasingly uncertain future. 

“The housing crisis continues to be a cause of frustration for us and a significant concern for many local people. The provision of affordable and social housing will be a top priority for the Council moving forward. The Council is building eight affordable homes at St Ann’s Chapel near Bigbury which will be completed this year.

We will also provide leadership on tackling environmental concerns and take direct action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. At the heart of this is the need to work in partnership with communities and to involve them in all aspects of the work of the Council and the journey ahead. 

“Last year we saw the Council take the Recycling and Waste Service back in house in October and performance has really improved and I would like to thank the whole team for all their hard work in making this happen. 

“We have finished the fiscal year in a good financial position and the future is looking positive for us.” 

To read the full report, go to: our site.

You can also watch the meeting online at our YouTube channel.