Thanet District Council’s budget proposals for financial year 2022-23 go to a Cabinet meeting on Thursday 13 January 2022 for approval. This budget funds all services the council provides to residents, communities and businesses throughout the year.
This latest published report is part of the Council’s annual budget setting process and follows Cabinet approval of the Budget Strategy report on Thursday 18 November 2021. The report covers next year’s budget and the Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022-26. It includes more resources for local services, a review of the council’s reserves and the proposed increase in council tax for next year. It also highlights the savings made in order to protect key services.
Encouragingly, this report presents a balanced budget compared to the initial £691k gap which was forecast and presented in November 2021. Net service spending is increasing by £1.182m, which is a 7% increase on last year. This has been achieved in part due to an unexpected increase in Government Funding, including a £525k New Homes Bonus allocation and £325k from a new Services Grant.
Despite the increase in funding, savings have still been required to balance the budget and have been achieved through a combination of activities, including:
- Savings from controllable council budgets and service efficiencies
- A targeted increase in fees and charges of 3% (where regulations allow)
- An increase of the Thanet District Council element of residents’ Council Tax – equivalent to less than 10 pence a week (£4.99 per year) on a Band D property. This means households in a Band D property would pay approximately 68 pence a day for Thanet District Council services
- A review of vacant posts. The priority was to protect jobs whenever possible, and only one compulsory redundancy is included.
The report demonstrates that challenging times lie ahead, especially due to the renewed concerns and impact of COVID-19 and how these translate into financial pressures for councils. Most notably in Thanet, these include a requirement to provide more temporary accommodation as more people turn to the council for homelessness support. There is also a need to introduce two extra waste collections to manage the uplift in waste generated as a result of people working from and spending more time at home.
The council is committed to replenishing reserves. This position is shared by the external auditor and accordingly we are making a planned £180k contribution to our reserves in 2022-23. Reserves refer to money the council holds back to fund specific projects or for emergencies. As such, this contribution helps the council improve its financial health and resilience.
A 2% pay award increase for council staff has been built into the budget, which factors in a requirement to increase wages for staff on the council’s lowest grades. This also includes a 6.6% increase to honour the National Living Wage requirements set out by the Government.
Cllr David Saunders, Cabinet Member for Finance at Thanet District Council, said:
“These reports illustrate the difficulty that we have when planning our finances against changing scenarios. Just a few months back we were forecasting a significant budget gap, but with a planned and cautious approach, combined with an efficient savings plan, we have been able to balance our budget.
“Despite what may seem like a lengthy and complicated process comprising several reports, this level of planning is of critical importance. It’s how we continue to deliver the services that matter to people and protect and support our most vulnerable residents. Planning our finances in this way means we are on the right track for balancing our budget in the coming years.
“We understand that some of the tough decisions we have made come at a time when many residents and local businesses have been impacted significantly by the pandemic and support is available for the hardest hit.”
If approved by Cabinet, this report goes to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel the following week and then back to Cabinet the week after (if the Panel makes any recommendations) before going to Full Council for approval in February 2022.
The money that the council uses to fund public services is made up of Council Tax receipts, income generation including from fees and charges, retained Business Rates and any Government funding. However, Thanet District Council receives just 12p in every £1 of Council Tax. The remainder goes to Kent County Council; Kent Police and Crime Commissioner; Kent Fire and Rescue Service and Town/Parish Councils.