Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Better budget than expected – for now

At the Thanet District Council Cabinet meeting on 22 January Members were updated with the Budget Monitoring Report for 2012/13 and considered the Budget for 2013/14 and the Medium Term Financial Plan.
Cllr Rick Everitt, Cabinet Member for Financial Services, said: “I am pleased that the council has been able to achieve greater savings than had originally been expected in some areas.

“We had originally anticipated a cut in a major aspect of government funding (the Formula Grant) of around 10% for 2013/14, however that reduction will now be 7.4%.

“Together these movements have enabled us to recommend a freeze in the TDC element of Council Tax for a further year, meaning that there will still have been no increase in Thanet’s Council Tax for residents since 2010.”
However, the situation for the future is concerning as the Formula Grant is likely to be slashed by 16.6% in 2014/15, more than twice what the council had anticipated.

Ahead of this, due to inflation and unavoidable commitments, the council has had to find savings of £1.6m in 2013/14 although it should now be possible to cover these through savings and other measures already in hand without affecting services.

In the area of the Housing Revenue Account there are proposals for a rent increase of 3.1% for council dwellings in line with the Government’s inflationary rates whilst savings are possible in management fees. Rental income and reduced debt charges have enabled the council to settle a significant loan account. There have also been savings in relation to proposed housing works which are no longer required.
The council’s capital programme has had to be scaled back to take account of the national economic situation, and its effects on  budgets, as these depend upon significant levels of capital receipts being generated from the sale of surplus assets. At present poor market conditions have meant that many of the proposed disposals are being held back until more realistic sales prices can be generated. However, some additional grant funding to cover disabled facilities has been built into the current capital programme.

Overall the council’s proposed medium term plans are based on current projections of available funds, with the strategy being to maintain an affordable four-year rolling programme, including engaging local residents in the allocation of capital resources as appropriate. These resources will be maximised by aligning them with priorities and by seeking external funding, careful borrowing and the disposal of assets where prudent.

Thus, although some tough decisions will be required in the longer term because of the significant Government funding cuts for 2014/15, adept planning by the council means that residents will have a useful ‘breathing space’ if the Full Council approves the proposed Council Tax freeze for the coming year when it meets on 7 February. 

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