Steady as She Goes
South Hams District Council presents its budget for the next financial year. A budget to maintain front line services, invest in the local economy and navigate the uncharted waters of uncertain government finances.
Sound financial management by South Hams District Council over the last few years has left the Council in a strong financial position. But uncertainty from central government means that there may be more turbulent times ahead.
Cllr Simon Wright, Deputy Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “Four years ago the Government told us how much money they would give us every year for four years.
“We have known since then that we would not get any more Revenue Support Grant. But the four year settlement did give us certainty that we would continue to get the Rural Services Delivery Grant, which is basically extra money because they recognise it is difficult delivering services in a rural area.
“This agreement ends next year and we have no information about what money, if any, the Government will give us after that.
“It appears that they will be basing future funding figures on the number of people living in an area, and with so many second homes in South Hams, this could prove a real problem for us. We are currently lobbying government to recognise the increase in our seasonal population.
“So without any certainty, we present this budget, a stable, steady budget that helps us to maintain the status quo, allows us to invest where we can, but keeps some money in reserve for an unpredictable future.”
South Hams District Council remains committed to doing everything it can to support residents and businesses. They recognise income generation and local investment will be key to keeping their finances healthy and their services protected.
This is reflected in the budget that they have put forward:
The Council continues to make a £3.9 m saving every year by working with West Devon Borough Council. By working together they save the taxpayer £6 million a year.
This year South Hams has secured an extra £80,604 from Government as part of its Rural Services Delivery Grant, which they have been lobbying for, but this is just for one year.
The Council wants to invest in a programme to replace play park equipment across the District, with a budget of £190,000.
This budget also continues to support the five year programme of repairs to the Council’s coastal assets, worth £300,000 per year.
By signing a contact with FCC Environmental to provide waste, recycling and cleaning services, South Hams District Council will save £286,000 this financial year.
To support the new waste contract, this budget has put money aside to make improvements at the waste depot in Ivybridge and to increase the amount of money the Council is putting away for new waste and recycling vehicles
Work will take place in the village of Ermington to provide new (and improve, existing) business units.
Money has also been put aside to provide improvements to Batson Creek car park.
Resurfacing of a number of car parks has also been included in this budget alongside honouring a commitment made to resurface the South Devon Tennis Centre’s outdoor courts, which are owned by the Council.
Alongside these investments are a programme of development opportunities which will support the local economy and provide jobs. Subject to obtaining planning permission, these include a Hotel in Kingsbridge, a Health Hub in Dartmouth, improvements to the quay and new business units in Batson and Beach Huts at Beesands. The Council also approved a new Commercial Property Strategy which will see it consider prudent commercial investment within the district in the forthcoming year.
This year, the councillors have also agreed to increase Council Tax on the proportion of money that the District Council gets. This amounts to a £5 a year increase on a Band D property or 10 pence a week. This makes the Band D Council Tax for South Hams District Council £165.42 for the year.
Sophie Hosking, South Hams District Council’s Chief Executive, said: “Our finance officers have worked really closely with councillors on this budget. Their careful management of the budget was recognised by the Peer Review team, a independent group of officers and councillors from across the country, who we invited in to observe everything we do.
“They said that sound financial management had put us in a good position. But as Cllr Wright has said, there remains some tough challenges ahead. Next financial year we are still predicting a budget gap of £0.47m and we do not know what our funding from Government will be. So there is clearly a lot of work to do.”
Visit the South Hams District Council Committee for Budget Reports
Visit the transparency pages on our website to read the Peer Review Report