Squeezed councils reveal budget plans for year ahead

Published on: 05 Feb 2018

Householders in Keynsham are set to see their council tax bills increase as the town council prepares to foot the bill for more public services in future.

Councillors voted to raise the precept – the town council’s share of each home’s council tax bill – by five per cent from April 2018. This means a Band D equivalent household will see an increase of £4.26 over the year, a rise of eight pence a week compared to last year.

The local authority set its budget for 2018/19 at its meeting on January 16, forecasting £693,511 of expenditure over the coming financial year – with £529,222 from taxpayers and £85,804 from council reserves.

Cheryl Scott, Keynsham town clerk, said: “Like many other councils, Keynsham Town Council is facing difficult decisions. There is pressure from B&NES to devolve further services on top of our current delivery of the cemetery, Manor Road and other public spaces.

“The town council also funds a youth service, the Neighbourhood Development Plan, and the £50,000 awarded in grants to community groups including Keynsham Music Festival. Additionally your council will have to absorb the recent national staff pay offer – an increase that significantly exceeded expectations.”

Dr Scott continued: “The town council must maintain a level of general reserves together with forward planning for future years of anticipated expenditure. Funding a budget shortfall from reserves each year in order to minimise council tax increases is not a sustainable option as once the reserves are spent, they are spent.”

In budget discussions, town council chairman Clive Fricker said councillors had decided not to pursue the purchase of premises for a new community centre – the council had previously submitted a bid for the former Keynsham fire station in Temple Street but was unsuccessful.

Cllr Fricker said: “Our information is that rises of eight per cent or more for the coming year are being considered by other local councils to mitigate the cumulative impact on their reserves of rising expenditure.

“Your council has decided not to pursue the possible acquisition of premises to use for new community facilities and will thus not be entering into any public works loan arrangement. Also over the coming months we will be conducting a thorough review of all activities and services with a view to securing the balance between expenditure and income with the appropriate level of reserves.

“We have a duty to the residents of Keynsham to exercise responsible stewardship of the council’s assets and services and that we will deliver.”

B&NES Council

Bath and North East Somerset Council is set to discuss and vote on its budget for the coming financial year on February 13.

The authority has revealed that on top of a drive to make savings of £27m, it now has to make a further £16m of cuts by 2020 – with 300 full-time equivalent jobs to go as part of its Operational Plan for 2018-20.

Other measures include reducing support services for schools as they become academies and buy services from elsewhere; reducing office buildings; investment in property acquisitions to generate income; changes to public transport services; further efficiency measures across a range of departments.

Meanwhile there will be some investment, with an extra £3m for adult social care, £19m in highways and transport improvements, £8.7m for new school buildings and primary places, £3m for the modern libraries programme and £2m for parks, including new play equipment.

Councillor Charles Gerrish, Cabinet member for finance and efficiency, said: “Through innovation, increased use of technology, raising income and relentless efforts to become ever-more efficient; the impact of the savings we’ve already made to date has been relatively small for many people. However, now we need to do even more.

“We now have to make some difficult decisions if the council is to become more self-supporting in the future and is to continue to live within its means. We will continue to provide high quality services and invest in the future to help the council to become self-sustainable. However, we will also have to decide what to do less of, what others can do better and what to stop doing.”

Full details of the Operational Plan can be seen here http://bit.ly/2GpmapH

Householders in Keynsham are set to see their council tax bills increase as the town council prepares to foot the bill for more public services in future.

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