Breckland Council members have voted to adopt a 2022/23 budget which will not only protect existing services but see further investment made in a number of key areas.
At the meeting of Full Council today (24 February), councillors gave the green light to the proposed budget, which will enable the organisation to continue against its key priorities of supporting local communities and businesses to thrive, tackling climate change, and adopting modern and efficient ways of working.
The report presented to council members outlined how the budget for the coming financial year could be balanced, with no use of the council’s limited reserve funding, despite the challenges and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic and changes in how local councils are funded by central government.
Members heard that the organisation was able to balance the books thanks, in part, to the £3m income it receives in renting out a portfolio of warehouses, offices and land. The council is also cutting costs this year by reviewing contracts and adopting efficient working practices, which is expected to save around £25,000 in 2022/23 before rising to £1million in future years.
However, councillors also discussed that rising costs meant it was necessary to increase district council tax by £4.95 a year for a Band D property. Although, with around 75% of Breckland residents living in a property in Bands A-C, the vast majority of people in the district will see a smaller rise when annual bills land on doormats towards the end of March.
Cllr Phil Cowen, Executive Member for Finance, Revenue and Benefits, presented the report and commented: “We will continue to charge the lowest district council tax in the entire country, with the majority of families paying less than £100 for a whole year’s worth of district council services. In return, we’ll spend the equivalent of £750 on services provided to the average household.
“As a district council, we provide around 90 legally-required, or ‘statutory’, services to our residents every single day, such as processing planning applications, collecting people’s bins, distributing benefits payments, and licensing various businesses to make sure they are operating safely.
“This budget will not only protect those services and many more, but also support a whole host of discretionary services too. This includes providing additional support for some of our most vulnerable residents, protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and helping businesses to grow and thrive which will protect jobs.”
The budget includes:
- Honouring a commitment to invest £1m in the council’s Inspiring Communities programme, helping people facing mental health issues, loneliness, or domestic abuse
- Investing £525,000 to tackle climate change and protect the environment, both through making changes and efficiencies as an organisation and working with communities to adopt ‘green’ practices
- A plan to generate savings of at least £25k in 2022/23
- A contribution of £35k to the Council Tax Hardship Fund, to reduce council tax for those in financial difficulty