Proposals for Thanet council budget due to be agreed

Budget

A budget that includes new proposals for raising funds in the face of a £1.3 million shortfall this coming financial year is expected to be approved by Thanet council on February 6.

The authority has a £17.1 million budget to fund services during April 2020 – March 2021.

The pot is made up from council tax,fees and charges, retained business rates and Government funding.

The shortfall, predicted to rise to £2.5million by 2023, comes amid plunging income from Government. The Revenue Support Grant to Thanet from central government was £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.

Thanet in blue

A one year settlement of £100,000 has been made for 2020-21. Plans to end the government revenue support grant from 2020 have now been rolled forward to 2021.

Money from the government’s New Homes Bonus has dried up as TDC has not qualified for it since 2016-17, apart from small amounts for affordable housing growth.

Council plans to make £730,000 of savings include scrapping the Waste & Recycling Education Officer post and the Open Spaces supervisor post and a predicted increase in green waste collections and income of £208,000 from fees and charges.

Proposals for more shared services, including leadership teams, will also be examined.

Public toilets

But there is also investment with TDC employing 10 new staff for street cleaning, taking on a new climate change officer and reversing plans to cut spending on public toilets with a £175,000 refurbishment programme instead.

There are plans to build at least 40 new council houses, increase council tax on long-term empty homes, increase the levels of recycling and upgrade fire safety in Thanet’s high rise blocks.

Some £400,000 has also been added to the budget for homelessness.

To help fund services TDC plans to increase its element of council tax by £4.95 – equating to a weekly rise of around 10p  for an average Band D property.

Thanet District Council receives 13p in every £1 of council tax. The remainder goes to: Kent County Council, Kent Police, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and Town/Parish Councils.

There will also be a council property rent rise. A report to councillors says: “Based on the CPI + 1% across the whole stock the average rent is £83.05, this is an average increase of £2.50p per property.”

Other proposals include income from a new authority housing company which would manage housing for market rent  and installing new beach huts, again with rental income.

A more unusual plan is the use of the council’s minor works team to sell handyperson services.

Council leader Rick Everitt said: “Initially the focus will be on supporting internal services but we are open to exploring other opportunities in the market.” 

Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Rob Yates added: “Cabinet has taken a fresh look at the council’s finances and is proposing a forward looking budget that we hope addresses the needs of the residents, whilst putting in place a plan for growth in public services.”

The draft budget will go to Full Council on Thursday (February 6)  for final approval before implementation from April 1.

Dreamland sale

Dreamland Photo Frank Leppard

Controversial plans to sell the freehold for Dreamland, inclusive of the council-owned car park and the TDC restored cinema and Sunshine Café building, will go ahead unchanged despite Labour councillors raising concerns under the previous Conservative administration.

Dreamland’s operator, SHL,currently holds a 99 year lease but the proposal would see the firm, buy the freehold – subject to agreement from external funders regarding the removal of ongoing grant obligations upon the council and subject to legal advice.

Council offices

Proposals to earmark £3million to refurbish the council’s Cecil Street offices, with the eventual aim of relocating, also remain unchanged.

The spend was agreed in the last budget under the then-ruling Conservative group. TDC would look to sell the Cecil Square building to recoup funds.

Thanet Parkway Station

The proposed Thanet Parkway railway station

A pledge made in last year’s budget to commit £2million to the Thanet Parkway Station remains unchanged. The cost of the scheme has now spiralled from an initial £11million to £34.5million.

Bin charges

Bin collections

There will be a review of council policy of charging for replacement refuse and recycling bins. Charges for replacement recycling bins and bags came into force in April 2018 after Thanet council said it could no longer afford to provide them for free. Charges for waste containers (black bins) were brought in during 2017.

But this will now be reviewed with “an examination of fairer ways of charging for refuse and recycling bin replacements.”

 Enterprising Thanet

Plans to boost local businesses and the Thanet economy are also being examined. 

Enterprising Thanet is a “buy local” strategy based on the Preston Model where the council and larger anchor businesses redirect their annual spend to local businesses and enterprises.

Preston City Council adopted the model in 2013. Work has included establishing a publicly-owned investment bank to support local small businesses and social enterprises. 

Preston council says anchor institutions – such as  NHS trusts, universities, trade unions, large local businesses and housing associations – can recruit from lower incomes areas, with a commitment to paying the living wage, and develop local supply chains.

Thanet council’s plan states: “It is designed to maximise the benefit of council spending on local businesses, employment and the environment. We plan to work more closely with businesses and public sector partners to encourage local spending and increase the capacity of local businesses to respond to the initiative.”

The idea is to use a social value procurement process. Winning bids would have to still represent the best value for money but contracts could be carved into pieces to give smaller businesses an even playing field. 

19 Comments

  1. This budget smacks of Councillors doing the best they can with diminishing finances due to Westminster cuts in government money. As so often, they risk being accused of not doing enough or doing it too late.

    Yet we are promised that the economy will really boom after Brexit so why doesn’t the government promise MORE money to make up for all the past reductions?
    And why still promise financial help to build Thanet Parkway station when the railways were privatised by telling us it would save us a fortune because the private companies would pay for it now? Let them!

    • The best they can? Really? Selling off the Freehold of Dreamland and other surrounding properties ? Margate’s biggest tourist attraction. Short term thinking at the very best. Parkway !! Let KCC fund it.

      • Agreed, plus they need to have the external funding “clawbacks” lifted , effectively gifting SHL around 25 million of public investment and leaving thanet with nothing. No doubt the new councillors have found that the cupboards are bare and will continue selling everything off just as previous administrations have.
        What happens when there’s nothing left ? And you’ve squeezed everyone as far as you can?

    • How much of the money will be diverted to the failed Manston venture, Thanet lives an unwanted lost cause. What a waste when the need is far greater in other aspects for the community, a station not needed and won’t be used in as greater numbers by Ramsgates residence and a venture with fairy tale promises in an airport that will not employ numbers needed, will pollute the area, and will create depths they will want government to bail them out. This stinks of collusion.

  2. The Station is a waste of public money and should be scrapped immediately. When the council has not enough money for essential services it should not be extravagant and waste funds on buisness projects that will have no benefit or income for the area to offset it. There is one saving that should be reconsidered.

    • Thanet parkway station will cost EVERY Thanet resident £30, do we need an Eighth station, unmanned and unwanted built on farmland and owned by network rail. WHY?

      • It may cost, in shorthand, £30 per Resident but it is taking £2m out of an overstretched, in fact, an unbalanced budget. We cannot afford it. Just tell the powers that be that we, Thanet, cannot afford it.

        • Just like your 20mph zones, Barry? Not needed, don’t work and is more dangerous than a 30mph zone, as proved by many, many independent companies appointed by the government, that do surveys and statistics. Many councils removing them.

          Oh and before your side chick, Marva replies; yes, that’s the facts. Deal with it. Don’t say something is unnecessary when half of the projects you and Barry cook up that you claim are “what residents requested”, are unnecessary. There’s a reason why Barry will soon be pushed out by the county council and given the cold shoulder. That’s coming from a whistle blower and is fact. He simply creates further problems from problems and *does not* resolve them.

          The main point: the new Parkway station is to improve investment opportunities at Discovery Park Enterprise Zone and the surrounding business parks in Thanet. It will have no staff and the road infrastructure around the area will be improved & overhauled and will create further road infrastructure that will help deal with the station passengers and the local residents. The project will provide access to more employment opportunities for local residents. At no point has the county council (as you have quoted) stated that the other stations are over capacity. I’m for this project as it will bring investment opportunity and improve the road network in that area.

          • How can a 20mph zone be more dangerous than a 30mph zone?

            You are entirely mistaken, Mr/Ms Box, in your assumption that I know Councillor Lewis. I have never even met him, let alone conversed with him, either in person or online.

            As for improving the road network, improving public transport by road is what the council should invest in. Car use needs to be drastically reduced.

    • I urge you to please ask your local councillor that question before they go all ” nodding dog ” on Thursday.

  3. O.K. so the council tax will rise to cover the excess costs. But why do the people of Thanet not rebel against the “local parish tax”. There was NEVER 2 types of tax, and that is what the people are paying now.

  4. NO TO PARKWAY STATION. NO TO NEW COUNCIL OFFICES = SAVING OF 5 MILLION. Easy savings so far. The council offices in Cecil Square seem perfectly satisfactory to work in by what I have seen, I have worked in much worse.

  5. Another budget built entirely on sand. Every year the budget promises hundreds of thousands of pounds in savings and every year they fail to materialise. Last time I checked the current year budget was overspent by almost £750,000 and this was partially due to promised savings that couldn’t be delivered. Mark my words this budget will go the same way too. Hare brained schemes which won’t deliver anything like what we’re promised resulting in yet another huge overspend next year.

  6. Selling the freehold of dreamland , sunshine cafe , cinema and car park is simply delaying the inevitable collapse of this amusement park and allowing in the long run the further enrichment of unscrupulous individuals associated with unaccountable venture capital and off shore hedge funds . I only hope the public bodies that have sunk large amounts of funding into dreamland say no. It is disappointing although not surprising that the labour group couldn’t have shown a little more courage and sought alternative arrangements .

  7. The reference to exploring more shared services including leadership teams was interesting as I couldn’t find any reference to it in the actual budget report itself unless someone else has spotted it ?

  8. Money should be spent on the hospital where our children are not being looked after properly. Disgusting that 3million is being used to refurbish the council offices when our local hospital is in desperate need.

    • What does the district council have to do with that? Why should the district council refurbish a hospital? It’s operated by a private business on behalf of the Government, not a district council.

Comments are closed.