The annual budget setting meeting on February 9th decided the budget changes and the council tax increase for the coming fiscal year 2021-2022. The preparatory work had been going on in various committees for several weeks.
The majority group inevitably wins the final vote and the opposition groups propose their alternatives with little hope of getting them accepted. It is, however, an occasion for airing different views and for ‘grand-standing’ as the Committee chairs have the opportunity to report on what a great job they have been doing! There were many speeches of congratulation and thanks to CCC staff for their resilience in the Covid crisis.
The scope for radical new ideas is very limited: most of the CCC budget is already committed to essential statutory services such as adult social care, looked after children as well as highway maintenance.
This year’s budgetary process has been overshadowed, inevitably, by the Covid pandemic which has required much flexibility from council employees, with extra costs, partially offset by extra grants from central government.
In terms of the council tax increase, this will be 1.99% for general expenditure and 1% for Adult Social care so the County Council component of your tax bill for next year will be:
Housing Band Ratio Amount £
A 6/9 933.18
B 7/9 1,088.71
C 8/9 1,244.24
D 9/9 1,399.77
E 11/9 1,710.83
F 13/9 2,021.89
G 15/9 2,332.95
H 18/9 2,799.54
For people living in the Band D benchmark house, the increase amounts to £40.59 per year, or £3.38 per month. County council tax accounts for 70% of our overall council tax bill, the rest being levied by Fire, Police, District Council and Parish Council.
The new investments for the coming year are an extra £4m. on Footpaths and Pavements, £170k on saving the B1050 (which is in danger of collapsing) and £1.090k on flood attenuation and biodiversity. Funding will need to be transferred from reserves to balance the budget.
The Liberal Democrat alternative for 21-22 (1.99% plus 1.5% for Adult Social Care) would have added a further monthly charge of £0.57p for a Band D household, above the Conservative proposal. The Lib Dem improvement schemes included £600k for Community Support Hubs, £200k for Green apprenticeships and small businesses, £40k for Junior Travel Ambassadors and capital investment in energy-saving measures, road improvement and in enhancing and increasing biodiversity, with a revenue implication of £51k. In addition, they proposed to save £105k by streamlining council committees and reducing the Special Responsibility Allowances for councillors.
The Labour alternative was for a 2% rise for Adult Social Care and 1% for general expenditure with a withdrawal of £13M from the Transformation Fund, and spending of £700k for the Innovate and Cultivate Fund, £4,393k for a Covid Recovery Fund, £100k for the Bikeability Scheme, £1m contingency fund for help with return to school and £300k extra investment in adult social care. Plus £7k to ensure that all CCC employees receive as a minimum the ‘Real Living Wage’.
Peter Downes, February11th 2021