SOUTH Somerset District Council (SSDC) has announced a 3.28 per cent increase of its element of council tax.
The decision had cross-party support and, together with the 1.99 per cent rise for Avon and Somerset Police; the 1.99 per cent increase for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority rise; 3.99 per cent rise for Somerset County Council rise, it results in an overall 3.57 per cent council tax bill increase for an average Band D property.
For all public services, including the parish and town councils, the average Band D household will pay £1630.38* over the year. The government has reduced the support grant it gives to councils and will eliminate the Revenue Support Grant completely by 2019.
For SSDC this means an immediate funding cut of £0.9million and, by 2020/21, total savings of £4.7million will be required, including an annual tariff of £330,000 which has to be handed back to central government for redistribution.
The council is also embarking on a transformation programme which will save £2 million from operating costs over the next three years. New income will also have to be generated by “embracing a more commercial approach”.
Councillor Peter Seib, portfolio holder for finance at South Somerset District Council, commented: “The government now wants South Somerset to fund its services locally and is removing Revenue Support Grant very quickly.
“Council staff are already working hard on a major transformation to the way in which we work that will reduce back-office costs significantly over two years, and we are also seeking new income through commercial projects.
“Even so, to balance the budget we have had to both draw down reserves and increase tax.
“People have told us very clearly on the doorstep and in surveys that they value the services and support they receive from SSDC, and that they would rather spend a little more, if it stops those being cut.
“On that basis, there was cross-party support for the budget.
“What has knocked us for six is the new tariff from 2019/20 of £330,000 annually, which we will have to collect locally and send back to central government for redistribution. That seems a very unfair deal for a rural area.”
*Total including average parishes. Parish precepts vary.