District Council set to invest Council Tax to help better communities

South Somerset District Council's (SSDC) Executive Committee has today agreed to recommend to Full Council that there will be no cuts to public services and to approve a balanced budget for 2019/20.

To achieve that balanced budget while maintaining services, the Council continues to undertake activities outlined in the Financial Strategy set in 2016, which includes becoming a more commercial organisation and investing in projects that will provide essential income to pay for these services.

The District Executive committee has also agreed to recommend to increase Council Tax by 2.85% (or £4.63 a year from the previous year for an average Band D property), which sits comfortably below the 2.99% maximum allowed rate set by Central Government before a referendum has to be held.

The increase in Council Tax will see an average Band D property pay £167.11 this year for District Council services. This includes £1.85 which is raised on behalf of the Somerset Rivers Authority each year. It goes directly to the authority and enables it to implement and fund its 20-year flood action plan for the county.

Why is Council Tax being increased?

Funding from Central Government has been steadily reducing since the end of the last decade. Since 2010, SSDC has sustained a 70 per cent reduction in its Government grant funding. With this in mind, we continue to try and raise funds to enable us to deliver for our communities and not cut the vital services that our communities need, such as road sweeping, the Homefinder social housing service, planning and much more. Visit www.southsomerset.gov.uk to explore what SSDC has to offer.

What will funds raised in South Somerset pay for?

Additional funds will allow SSDC to not only maintain services, but to continue to provide excellent additional value for residents including free school holiday Playdays, waste and recycling collections, leisure, arts and entertainment services including swimming facilities at Wincanton and Yeovil, The Octagon Theatre and Westlands.

Regeneration schemes in Yeovil and Chard will see funds raised through business rates (£1.4m) and new homes bonus grant held in reserve (£2.5m) directed to help develop these key strategic town centres and help them to thrive through planned regeneration projects.

We also propose to increase our investment in services and assets by £1.7m within the capital programme, including £1.25m in our leisure, play and recreation facilities and £180,000 in grants to improve standards of housing available in the private rented sector.

In October 2018, we told you about 15 things we were proud of delivering in the past 18 months for our communities. Without income raised through revenue streams such as Council Tax, we wouldn't be able to provide many of these services or activities or to a high standard.

What is the Council doing about the Government funding cuts?

South Somerset District Council has made it clear that it does not want to cut services to the public, but invest in the future through its Transformation.

Our ambitious Transformation programme puts our customers first and helps to build a Council of the future that is modern, flexible and efficient has already seen many benefits, with new ways of interacting with the Council through redesigned services starting to come into place in the coming months. The Transformation programme promises to deliver ongoing financial savings of £2.5m per year, which goes a long way towards ensuring services to our communities are protected and remain affordable despite the significant pressure on local government budgets.

Our aim for Transformation is to build a council that works as one team and is ambitious for South Somerset and the communities we serve. To do this we will be a modern and efficient organisation that is:

  • Great to work for
  • Excellent to work with
  • Leading the way in local government
  • And everything we do is focussed on delivering for our communities

What this means for our services and customers is we will:

  • Get more customers online and tackle more issues at the first point of contact
  • Have 24/7 online access for our customers
  • Continue to ensure that customers receive face to face help if they need it, at a place and time convenient to them
  • To develop a flexible workforce and create a new council structure based on customer needs.

Learn more about Transformation here.

Councillor Val Keitch, Leader at South Somerset District Council, said: "We recognise the importance of agreeing a balanced budget where we can continue to provide services for residents, visitors and businesses.

"This recommendation to Full Council later this month puts forward a sound case to ensure that we can be a leading Council going into the future that continues to provide vital services to those who need them, but also that we make our town centres attractive for visitors and businesses. We will continue to do our best to ensure that any Council Tax increase is kept to a minimum and that resident's use and enjoy the services that we provide".

Councillor Peter Seib, portfolio holder for Finance at South Somerset District Council, added: "Agreeing a balanced budget for 2019/20 is a fantastic achievement for the District Council, but we've also been able to confirm a large amount of funding for the major regeneration projects in Chard and Yeovil, we've stepped in to keep Citizens Advice South Somerset going, we've raised a new hostel service to address rough sleeping and we have also protected all of our services from cuts.

"Not only has South Somerset kept its element of Council Tax to about three quarters of the cost of a BT line rental or half a basic Sky subscription, but we've delivered the lowest percentage tax in Somerset over the last four years".