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Posts tagged finance
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
Applications are invited from community organisations, including schools and, small farm business diversification projects which are seeking to educate and involve young people in sustainable initiatives.
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Councils agree to support the creation of a local bank to support the local economy
Both South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councillors have pledged their support for the creation of a local financial institution, a local bank for local people.
The new venture, which is yet to be named, would be the first ever high street bank dedicated to Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset (Subject to regulatory approvals).
The bank, known for now as South West Mutual, would be owned by its members and would pursue only what is in the customers’ best interests. Unlike national financial institutions, the Mutual would not engage in financial speculation, or pay huge bonuses to staff for selling financial products.
Cllr John Tucker, Leader of South Hams District Council, explains why the Council is supporting this initiative: “I am really interested by this proposal and the benefits it could offer our communities. We all know that the local branches are being lost at an astonishing rate, making it more difficult for older and more vulnerable people and trading businesses to access their finance or seek support. The South Hams has lost 13 bank branches since 2015, leaving major towns such as Dartmouth without any banks at all. We understand that banks have to move with the times and more business is done online, but who will support our high streets and market towns in the future?”
“We also know that our SME businesses can find it difficult to get funding. This proposal would see a new kind of banking institution, one that is not tied to the costly overheads of the National banks, who can use the latest technology because it is starting from scratch. We welcome the commitment of South West Mutual to be a permanent presence in the region and to serve our residents and businesses by building a branch network.”
Cllr Philip Sanders, Leader of West Devon Borough Council said: “Councils do not want to get into the business of banking but it is our business to support a thriving economy in West Devon.
We recognise that South West Mutual’s mission to serve our residents and smaller businesses and its commitment to financial inclusion are closely aligned with West Devon Borough Council’s own objectives and strategy and so we are delighted to be able to support them in the early stages of their application for a banking licence.”
Both Councils agree that this is one way that they can use some of the money generated from the Business Rates pilot to support the local economy without using money that has come from Council Tax Payers.
Each council will invest £50,000 to help support the formation of the new entity. The proposal is not without risk, but without the funding, the proposed benefits to the local economy may never be realised.
South Hams and West Devon are the two first local authorities in the area to pledge their support, leading the way for others who have also expressed an interest in this venture. More information can be found at: https://southwestmutual.co.uk/
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Recently councillors from South Hams District Council have been analysing how much money they have to spend in the next financial year and setting their priorities for how they would like to spend it. But with their revenue support grant cut to zero from next year, this is not proving to be an easy task.
Over the last few years, South Hams District Council has seen a large reduction in the amount of money that it gets from central government. The District Council has known since last year that, from 2018, it will no longer receive a revenue support grant. In 2009/10 the Council received £5.5 million in Core Government funding (Revenue Support Grant plus funding from Business Rates) and by 2019/20 this has been reduced to £1.5 million – a reduction of £4 million. In addition to this, there are many other factors working against the council, such as inflation and possible public sector pay increases.
This means that from next year, South Hams District Council will need to find additional money to continue delivering the same services that it does now. With or without the predicted £0.5 million that could be saved by creating a new council, councillors are being asked to make some tough decisions that could lead to service cuts or increases in charges.
Councillors have been looking at this shortfall and deciding how they are going to cover it for next year. In 2018/2019 the budget gap for the year will be just under £0.6 million and by 2020/2021, it predicts that the yearly budget gap will have increased to £0.8m.
Cllr Simon Wright, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Support Services said: “As we have been saying for some years, we simply do not have enough money to continue delivering the services at the same level as we do now. Our revenue support grant is stopping completely next year, inflation is going up and the public sector pay freeze may be relaxed. This means that we are having to look very closely at the other income we get and work out how we can cover the shortfall.”
District councils receive money to pay for services from three different sources – grants from central government, 6% from business rates, and charges for services such as carparks.
Cllr Wright continued: “Even if we do submit a proposal to the Secretary of State to create one new council and increase council tax, the benefits would not come into effect until 2020.
“In the meantime, the books need to be balanced for next year. The reality is that we have to look closer at our spending now and we may have to increase some of the charges on some of the services we provide such as carparks and public toilets, or stop doing things that that law does not requires us to do.
“An average band D home owner pays us, South Hams District Council, £155 a year, or £3 a week for the services that we provide. Without grants from central government to bolster this figure, it really is no wonder that we will be struggling to provide the basic services when our grant stops.”
At a series of budget setting workshops, councillors from South Hams have been looking at the services that the District Council provides and beginning to ask themselves some tough questions.
Cllr Wright continued: “We may be tinkering around the edges of this in order to balance the books next year. If we do not take some tough decisions, like the One Council proposal, or come up with other ways to generate an income, there may be some tougher decisions to come.”
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Watch a video about our finances: https://youtu.be/vDBVVnMXGUw
A proposal to create one single new council is being put to all of the councillors from South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils later this month.
Like many other local authorities across the country, South Hams and West Devon have been facing huge financial pressures due to the phasing out of the money they used to get from central government.
The reduction in government funding (revenue support grant and the councils share of business rates ) has been dramatically reduced by £4 million in South Hams and £3 million in West Devon since 2009/2010 . However through sharing services since 2007, the councils are currently saving £6 million a year. Despite this the councils are still facing a combined budget gap of £1.9 million each year after 2020, due to further government cuts.
Local councils are not allowed to set a negative budget, so South Hams and West Devon will have to find ways of closing that gap. If either of them cannot set a balanced budget in 2020, there would be severe financial consequences for both authorities because they are so intertwined.
Cllr John Tucker, Leader of South Hams District Council said: “We know that there are some key concerns that the public will have, and in the proposal you will see how we plan to address those concerns. The biggest one for our residents in South Hams is likely to be the difference between our council tax rate and West Devon’s, which is approximately £63 a year on a band D property.
“If the proposal goes ahead we would need to bring the two council tax charges to the same level and this may mean that South Hams residents will see an increase over the next few years, until they are at the same level. In the proposal we have laid out some different options for how this could be dealt with.
“If we do not do this, there is a risk that South Hams will run out of money after 2020, due to the lack of funding, we therefore want to make sure we consider all options to continue funding those services we know are vital to our local communities.
Cllr Tucker knows that these are very difficult decisions to make, but he says “both councils must address their financial positions so as to protect front line services”.
South Hams is encouraging anyone who is interested in the progress of the proposal to follow them on social media and sign up for their newsletters.
Notes to editor
In the proposal, which is one of a number of measures the councils are considering to close the funding gap, South Hams predict that the creation of a single council could save up to £0.5 m every year. This is excluding any potential income resulting from an increase in Council Tax. These savings would not be made through cuts to services, but because a single council will cost less to operate.
Over the last few months a working group of councillors, from both authorities, with representatives from across the political parties in South Hams and West Devon, have been exploring if the creation of one new council would be possible.
The detail of their work has now been made public in the proposal which will go to both councils, firstly West Devon Hub on 18th July and then South Hams Executive on 20th July. Potentially followed the next week by discussion at both full councils on 25th and 27th July. The accompanying report will be asking councillors to approve a public consultation.
Papers are now live on West Devon’s website before their Hub meeting on 18th July: http://mg.swdevon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=221&MId=305&Ver=4
We have just been told that the parish’s application for a grant from County Councillor Richard Hosking’s Locality Fund has been successful for which we are extremely grateful. The application was made back in March, prior to the recent elections, and will help meet the costs of repairs to the graveyard wall and gates at St Lawrence church, Bigbury.
The project is about maintaining what is arguably the most important asset of the parish, its graveyard, in a respectable and presentable condition that is ‘fit for purpose’. Many, if not most, parishioners will have a need for use of the graveyard at some time in their lives, either for themselves, for relatives or for friends. However, this delicate subject is usually overlooked or taken for granted and the supporting infrastructure of the graveyard (gates, walls, etc.) can become dilapidated over time; hence, the need for these repairs now, after decades of neglect.
The precept for the next financial year (2015-2016) was increased by £400 to £8000 at a special council meeting in January. The minutes of the meeting and explanation for the increase can be found in DOCUMENTS section of the Bigbury Parish Council GROUP