A 2.99% hike in council tax and budget cuts of at least £1.3 million are proposed as Thanet council attempts to balance the books for 2019-20.
The authority must plug a £1.8million shortfall or be at risk of a “significant risk of overspending the proposed budget.”
The cuts will come amid falling income from Government. The Revenue Support Grant to Thanet from central government is estimated to be £97,000 for the 2019-20 financial year. In 2018-19 it was £809,000 and in 2017-18 the grant stood at £1.446m. This is compared to £6.636m in 2013-14.
There will be no central government grant from 2020-21.
The New Homes Bonus allocation to Thanet has also been slashed to £600,000 – a whopping £400,000 lower than the 2018-19 allocation.
A Kent and Medway bid to be a pilot for 75% business rates retention in 2019-20 failed meaning the council will be part of a Kent pool receiving 50% business rates retention.
There has also been a cut of £78,000 in the allocation from the Government towards housing benefit administration.
The council will receive a one-off payment of £76,000 in redistributed business rates.
A report to council Cabinet members, due to be discussed on Tuesday (January 15) says cash-saving action must be taken.
The report states: “In September Cabinet approved the Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2019-23. The strategy set out that, for 2019-20, there was a funding gap of £1.8m that needed to be met in order to arrive at a balanced General Fund budget
“The funding gap has been identified, but involves a number of actions and commitment to deliver the savings for next year. Unless this plan is adhered to, the council could be at significant risk of overspending the proposed budget.”
Thanet needs a budget amount of £16.6 million for the coming year. Measures to raise funds include a proposed 2.99% council tax rise, which will raise £ 43,763.27.
The hike will mean a Band D home will pay £233.19 for Thanet council’s share of the annual council tax, an increase of around £6.75.
Funds will also be raised through fees and charges, which were agreed in November, such as costs for parking, burials and waste disposal.
There will also be a continued sell-off of council assets, currently estimated to be worth some £244 million.
The council is hoping to raise £5.1million towards the 2019-20 budget costs.
The report to councillors states: “The level of capital receipts available from the sale of surplus assets has been very constrained over the last few years. Reasons for this have included the economic situation, assets being removed from the disposal list following consultation, and capital funding being switched from reserves to capital receipts wherever possible due to significant pressures on the council’s revenue budget.
“Members should note that an estimated £5.181m in capital receipts has been forecast to fund the 2019-20 programme derived in part from the asset disposal report present to Cabinet on 14 June 2018. This will be monitored closely during the financial year, as it may be necessary to adjust the programme in year depending on asset disposal and funding outcomes.”
The council expects to receive grants to help with some costs such as a Better Care Fund allocation for 2019-20 of £2.789m of which £2.420m has been set aside for Disabled Facilities Grants.
Work on Thanet’s sea defences will be funded by the Environment Agency and the restoration, refurbishment and modernisation of Ellington Park, Ramsgate will be funded by the Heritage Lottery.
Some projects have been moved from this year to the 2019-20 budget, including £1.6 million for Homelessness Accommodation, £1,060,000 for Ramsgate Flood and Coast Protection Scheme, Westbrook to St Mildred’s Sea Wall Work equalling £600,000 and replacement of Ramsgate Port berth 2/3 and 4/5 costing £450,000. An additional £1 million is also earmarked for berth improvements in the council’s capital programme table.
Savings and costs
If a ferry service contract for Ramsgate Port is not signed by the end of January a whopping £500,000 of planned ‘growth’ will be cut along with a further £130,000 savings, totalling £630,000 (or £730,000 in a full year).
Thanet council will also set aside £200,000 to cover bad debts which are forecast to grow due to increased rent arrears and the effects of Universal Credit.
Social and affordable rents will be decreased by 1% in line with the government rent guidance. The average rent is currently £80.36, with an average decrease of 77p per property.
Spending on new build properties or the buying of properties has a reserve of £5.37m.
The council’s reserve fund stands at £2m but is estimated that this may be spent during 2022-23, if the future funding gap is not addressed.
The budget will be discussed by Cabinet members on Tuesday (January 15) and again on January 29 before a decision is made by full council on February 7.