22/02/18: Breckland Council approves budget and announces £1.7m investment in community projects
Breckland councillors today (22 February) voted to agree a budget that will protect frontline services, invest in the district's future and inject £1.7m into community projects in 2018/19.
Councillors also approved Cabinet's recommendation to increase district council tax by just under £5 from April to enable the authority to invest in its market towns, protect community grants and support, and back local businesses.
Despite the rise, district council tax in Breckland remains the lowest in the country.
A tax increase of £4.95 in 2018-19 is based on a Band D property and, as most residents (77%) live in Bands A-C homes - including 54% of people in the district who live in Band A or B homes - the majority of residents will see their tax go up by a smaller amount. For example, the increase for a Band A home will be £3.30 per year.
The rise was agreed in view of falling income from central government for Breckland Council, as a result in reductions in revenue support grant and New Homes Bonus, and rising costs associated with delivering services due to inflation and other pressures.
However, Breckland councillors heard today that the authority remains in a good financial position, with a balanced budget. The council is on track to remove its reliance on the New Homes Bonus, therefore the funding received is now being contributed into reserves for community projects. This will enable councillors to invest £1.7m in supporting communities across Breckland in 2018/19 followed by a further £1.4m in 2019/20.
The council's work to become more efficient was highlighted in the report presented to councillors, who heard that its Moving Forward programme, which is transforming the delivery of council services and support, is set to deliver £2.7m of efficiency savings or new income by 2019-20.
Cllr Philip Cowen, Breckland Council's Executive Member for Finance, commented: "I am proud to announce a balanced budget and a sound financial plan that put us in an exceptionally strong position. We've avoided making cuts to frontline services through sensible financial planning and by making our services and back-office teams more efficient.
"We're actively supporting the local economy, particularly by encouraging housing and business growth, which is helping to create a thriving district - now and for the future. Through our commercially-minded approach, which generates around as much money as we receive from local council tax, as well as the efficiencies we are making, we can remove our reliance on the Central Government Revenue Support Grant a year earlier than planned.
"A small increase in district council tax provides us with opportunities to further safeguard services going forward, for example by enabling us to make investments which will bring in new income in the future. This approach will help keep the financial burden off residents and businesses as much as possible."
Last updated: 25/09/2018 14:44:00