Service cuts and council tax rise – What could next year’s council budget mean for you?

PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:20 30 November 2017

The council is starting to set its budget.

The council is starting to set its budget.

Archant

North Somerset Council has started to make plans for next year’s budget, with a council tax rise expected along with potential cuts to children’s centres and nurseries. Although proposals are in their early stages, there is some indication on how next year’s budget could affect people in North Somerset as it needs to save another £10million.

North Somerset Council's budget.North Somerset Council's budget.

Overall position

The council’s financial team is expecting it will have to find £10million in savings in 2018/19, meaning it will have made £100million in savings in its budget since 2010.

Savings made so far include cutting staff numbers from around 3,000 to 1,385, but the council’s head of finance, Malcolm Coe, said it is now getting harder to find big savings in the budget.

He added: “With increasing pressures and reducing resources we reluctantly have no further options other than to make service reductions which will impact on residents and services users across North Somerset.”

Council tax

It is looking likely we will all pay more in council tax next year. By 2020, 92 per cent of the council’s budget will need to come from council tax.

It is expected the authority will choose to increase council tax by the maximum allowed, which is 1.99 per cent.

It may also add a three per cent levy, which is set aside exclusively for adult social care.

Mr Coe said: “We have kept council tax increases low for a number of years and have also taken the Government’s freeze grant on several occasions, both of which have enabled our residents to have a very low level of council tax compared to others.

“However this has resulted in the council having a low tax-base and means that we are effectively penalised and have less opportunity than others to address the shift in funding resources from Government grants to locally-generated income sources.”

Business rates

While there is no indication business rates are going to change, the council could soon receive 100 per cent of the money.

The authority currently keeps 50 per cent of the business rate income, and the Government gets the other half, but it is waiting for more information about when it could receive the full total.

Car parking

The council believes it can increase its income through rising a number of one-street and off-street car parking charges.

MORE: All the proposed car parking charges.

The charges largely affect Weston, with proposed increases on the seafront, on-street parking and its car parks.

Kewstoke’s car parks may also have charges in the future, and the price may also increase at Worle’s railway station.

Children’s services

The council will look to make savings of £1.7million over the next two years in its children services.

The department was over budget by £2.6million this year, where one of the ‘significant pressures’ was the cost of paying agency staff.

Earlier this year, councillors warned youth services were a ‘shadow’ of what existed five years ago and Government grants to cover children’s services have been drastically reduced.

MORE: Social services close to ‘breaking point’.

Children’s centres may take the hit, with their budgets proposed to be sliced from £135,000 in 2018/19 to £40,000 in 2019/20.

The budget for placements for looked-after children could also lose £50,000.

Mr Coe admits cuts in nursery funding and children’s centres is ‘likely to have a negative impact on service users’.

Adult social care

The council’s overspend for adult social care was £3.8million this year, and it will be trying to save £2.15million in 2018/19.

Pressures may be eased somewhat with Government grant funding expected to rise from £928,000 to £4.9million – although the council is still waiting for the details to be confirmed.

It is considering scrapping a contract offering practical housing support to vulnerable residents – but admits this could mean demand for other care services will rise over time.

North Somerset Life magazine

The running cost of the council’s magazine may be reduced, but not by decreasing the number of times it is published.

It costs more than £163,000 a year to publish every two months, and the council does not meet Whitehall demands that the frequency be reduced to once a quarter.

North Somerset Life magazine at the town hall.North Somerset Life magazine at the town hall.

It publishes six magazines a year, instead of the required four, although argues two of these are ‘special’ winter and summer editions.

MORE: Why don’t the rules apply to North Somerset Council’s magazine?

The authority wants to pay for it by generating more advertising and sponsorship.

Parks

The contract for maintenance, street cleaning, beach cleaning and works to trees, currently held by Glendale, will be reviewed to save £150,000.

Service levels could be further reduced in the future to make more savings.

What next?

Despite the proposed cuts and parking fee increase, the council still has a £1.136million gap. Further work is now needed to identity how it can balance the budget.

Money may be found through commercial investments, reviewing its waste contract, more cuts to its parks and open spaces contract and reviewing its libraries and children’s centres again.

It may also try to increase its rent by offering space in its buildings at the Town Hall and Castlewood in Clevedon.

The chairman’s budget may also be reduced or removed altogether.

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