Councillors in Bath & North East Somerset have approved budget plans aimed at making the Council self-sufficient and fit for the future.
The budget passed by Councillors means that an extra £7 million will be spent on children and adult care services this year, alongside additional investment in road maintenance, transport improvements and affordable housing.
At the same time, the Council has set out how it plans to raise more of its own revenue to enable the authority to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on government grants in the years ahead.
This includes earning additional money from the Council’s commercial investments, heritage assets and housing company, whilst at the same time growing the economy to generate more Business Rate income to reinvest in the local area.
Alongside this, the Council has also set out how it is seeking greater powers from Government to allow the Council to introduce a local Tourism Levy and seek a greater contribution towards local services from the area’s Universities and student accommodation providers.
In order to protect as many front line services as possible and increase investment in Children’s Services and Adult Social Care, councillors agreed a 1.95% rise in Council Tax, together with 3% for the Adult Social Care precept, meaning Bath & North East Somerset continues to maintain one of the lowest Council Tax rates in the region.
Councillor Charles Gerrish, (Conservative Keynsham North), Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency, said: “This budget will ensure the Council lives within its means whilst at the same time providing additional investment in vital services such as social care, housing and transport.
“These are challenging times for local authorities, but our aim is to make the council financially self-sufficient so that in future we do not have to rely on government funding to invest in local priorities.
“We are making good progress towards this ambition, with millions of pounds saved from increased efficiency and millions more raised from new sources of income. But to go further we will need greater powers from Government to raise more income locally, and this is something we are lobbying for.
“We recognise that some of these changes will have an impact on our staffing, and this process will be handled with as much care as possible.”
The Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Cllr Tim Warren, added: “Despite the difficult decisions required to balance the budget, we are continuing to protect the majority of front-line services, such as street cleaning, whilst increasing funding for social care services.
“At the same time, we are investing in infrastructure projects that will improve local transport, support job creation, and provide the new affordable homes our area needs.
“By investing in projects that generate a long-term income for the Council, this will also help towards achieving our ambition of becoming self-sufficient and create a positive legacy to pass on to future generations.”
Some of the key investments contained within the approved budget include:
- An extra £3.9 million for adult social care to help support some of the most vulnerable in our society and to help address the increased pressure on this service.
- An extra £3.1 million for Children’s Services, including children’s social care and SEND services.
- £19 million investment in road and transport improvements, including an extra £2.2 million for highway maintenance.
- £8.7 million for new school buildings and primary school places.
- £4.2 million by the end of this financial year to support local affordable housing projects, with a further £3 million from 2018 onwards.
- £70,000 to support continued measures to tackle local gull problems – including a successful nest-removal programme – and protection of the council’s street cleansing budget.
- Continued investment in the Bath and Somer Valley Enterprise Zones, including the flagship regeneration of Bath Quays to create jobs and generate new income from business rates.
Some of the ways in which the Council is saving money and generating more of its own income include:
- Generating an extra £1.6 million a year earned from the Council’s heritage estate.
- Generating almost an extra £1 million in the next financial year in addition to the £0.5m in 2017/18 per year from commercial investments.
- Continuing to raise over £2.5 million more a year by retaining more Business Rate income locally.
- By 2020 earning over £500k a year from the creation of a Council-owned housing company that is both generating income and delivering new local homes.
- Saving a further £600k from reducing and leasing-out Council office space.
- Saving £800k by 2019/20 by integrating library and information services in Bath and Midsomer Norton, and progressing the Council’s community libraries programme.
- Earning an extra £100k a year from renegotiating the Bath Spa profit share agreement.
The full details are available on the council’s website www.bathnes.gov.uk (meeting minutes will be published in due course).