Mid Devon residents budget agreed - £5 rise for band D properties

By Crediton Courier Newspaper   |   Editorial   |
Saturday 5th March 2022 7:00 am
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MID Devon residents will pay more towards the district council from April, after a tax rise of just over two per cent was approved.

The increase means a band D property will contribute £218.84 next year – an extra £5 – on top of other increases recently announced by the county council, police and the fire service.

It is the maximum rise allowed by the government without holding a referendum and follows similar increases proposed by other local authorities in Devon, in light of rising inflation and reduced revenues because of the pandemic.

The multi-million-pound new budget, including the council tax rise, was voted through at a full meeting of the district council in Tiverton on Wednesday night (February 23) without any councillors wanting to debate it.

Members instead spent more time later in the meeting to discuss at length which of the political parties should be allocated spare seats on committees, which deputy leader Bob Evans (Conservative, Lower Culm) thought was “very sad”.

“I think we all need to take a long, hard look at ourselves about that particular fact,” he added.

The new budget comes after concerns in the past few months about what its projected shortfall – the gap between income and expenditure – could look like in 2022-23.

Last month, the ruling cabinet was told it was around £1.4 million – roughly 10 per cent of the general budget – but a number of adjustments have since cut that figure significantly to around £150,000, which will come from reserves.

Presenting the budget earlier this month, the member for finance, Councillor Andrew Moore (Conservative, Clare and Shuttern), said it was a “remarkable achievement” considering the shortfall was originally predicted to be over £2 million in 2020.

Further challenges the council faced when setting the budget included a reduction of £1.1 million in government funding and the ongoing reductions to revenue as a result of covid. It’s also increasing fees and charges, for things like car parking, at below inflation rates.

However, council house rents are to go up by 4.1 per cent as part of the new budget, with garage rents to be frozen.

A report on the budget explained: “The overall rental income was materially affected by the government’s previous policy to reduce (council housing) rents by one per cent each year for four consecutive years.

“We estimate that the budget is therefore (circa) £2 million lower per annum.”

The council’s policy development groups had previously been tasked with finding savings totalling half a million pounds to help reduce the shortfall, with Cllr Moore saying “nothing was off the table”.

The report set out how most of the savings have come from adjustments to financing for capital projects, better than expected business rates growth and changes to the council’s reserves.

The cabinet had previously been told the new local government finance settlement – given to all councils by Westminster – gives an increase to Mid Devon of just 0.82 per cent next year, which assumes the £5 increase in council tax.

However, due to inflation and lost income from covid, the council believes the settlement will actually amount to a “reduction in spending power” and says all local authorities need “clarity and certainty about how all local services will be funded over the next few years and beyond.”

The budget was approved by 24 votes to seven, with five abstentions.

Ollie Heptinstall

LDRS

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