Council tax increase proposed to help plug £840k Thanet council budget shortfall

Councillor Rick Everitt

A Thanet council budget shortfall of £840,000 is predicted for the 2021-22 tax year, excluding any extra impact caused by Covid.

Thanet council Cabinet members are set to discuss plans for delivering a balanced budget for the financial year which will include proposals for a 2% council tax rise and a 2% rise on fees and charges which will bring in an estimated £400,000.

The fees hike will include areas of on and off street parking, crematorium fees, costs for bulky and green waste and higher port and harbour fees.

Although the budget gap is not as large as many councils in the UK, TDC leader Rick Everitt says there are still ‘difficult choices’ to be made.

The council was already under financial pressure before the COVID-19 pandemic but now faces extra costs and income losses including to leisure services. All the council’s leisure services are provided by Your Leisure and that organisation is facing unprecedented financial pressures as a result of Covid and its theatre venues remain shut.

Extra costs

The council is supporting Your Leisure in relation to direct funding, helping with bank negotiations and lobbying Government. A £100m fund has been announced by the Government to support local authority leisure providers, but the distribution of this funding is unknown. Even if Your Leisure/TDC is eligible for some funding, Your Leisure may still require further financial support from the council in the current year and next year.

There are also further expected costs as the council responds to the virus outbreak and provides support to the most vulnerable residents. The Government has allocated emergency Covid-19 funding to local authorities, but this is unlikely to be sufficient to cover the estimated budget gap.

A report to Cabinet members says: “The key risks for this budget strategy are that national or local events give rise to costs which have not been factored into the budget – there is no headroom. These risks could include, nationally, Covid-19, EU Transition and uncertainty regarding Government funding; and locally, Your Leisure, a failure to take management action now to stay within next year’s budget and political instability.”

The money that is used 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.

It is being recommended that £400,000 of government Covid funding this year is set aside as a provision against Covid losses in income in 2021-22.

Income losses

There are expected to be shortfalls in the collection of council tax and business rates with the report to councillors saying: “Collection rates are down, perhaps not as far as first expected, however substantial shortfalls in collection are expected on both Council Tax and Business Rates.

“The size of these shortfalls still cannot be estimated with certainty. The impact of Covid on the council’s Council Tax income could manifest from the ending of the furlough scheme, and increased unemployment from an economic downturn (resulting in more Council Tax Support (CTS) claimants and non-payment by those not in receipt of CTS).

“Business Rates income could similarly be hit by business failures from an economic downturn. There is also the potential cliff-edge of Business Rates relief for small businesses and those in retail, leisure and hospitality, which has applied for this year but (will end in 2021-22, with those businesses expected to start paying rates again. It is also unlikely that there will be a similarly generous business grants scheme as in this year, worth £34m so far.”

Income from parking fees is also expected to be hit if Covid restrictions continue.

There are also uncertainties around central government funding. Grants to local authorities have been drastically cut in recent years and the future for local government funding remains very uncertain, with no information available on funding from April 2021 onwards.

Savings

The council says permanent savings must be made.

This will mean each Service Director has to find savings from their budgets. There will be reduced spending and bolstering council reserves will be delayed until 2022-23 to help meet the financial gap.

Council staff also face a ‘restrained’ cost of living pay award in 2021-22 “in order to protect services and minimise staffing reductions.”

A 1% increase in pay is proposed to be built into the budget, along with the cost of paying the National Living Wage and increments. Incremental increases through the grading structure are a contractual obligation to the council and a right for staff. In addition, the council is legally required to implement the increase in the National Living wage which is forecast to increase by 5.5% to £9.20 per hour on 1st April 2021. The combination of these pay pressures will cost the council an estimated £294k in 2021-22.

‘Difficult choices’

Council leader Rick Everitt said: “There is unprecedented uncertainty around the budget-setting process this year due to COVID-19 and we expect the position to evolve before council agrees the final position in February. However, we have to plan based on what we know and protecting the services that matter most to local people will be a key part of our consideration when we meet to review the proposed budget strategy next week.

“As a result of sound financial management, we’re fortunate that we’re not seeing a shortfall next year on the same scale as the millions identified by some authorities. That said, for Thanet this is still a significant gap. It means some difficult choices must be made, and I am also conscious of how well our staff at all levels have responded to the COVID-19 situation.

“We’ve seen a substantial impact on our budget this year as a result of COVID-19 – our focus has rightly been on the immediate coordinated response to support our residents and local businesses. This additional pressure along with the increasing challenges we see each year as funding from the Government dwindles further still, means it is a sad but inevitable fact that we will have to make some difficult decisions.

“Given the huge continued uncertainty regarding COVID-19, our forthcoming exit from the EU and Government policy regarding local government, the Medium Term Financial Strategy is being pushed back to later in the budget process. At this stage there is too much uncertainty to develop a meaningful four year budget strategy.”

The Budget Strategy forms part of the council’s annual budget setting process for the financial year ahead. A separate Budget Report will be published in January in which the specific details of the savings will be provided.

Thanet District Council receives just 13p 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.

Cabinet members will discuss the proposals at a meeting on November 19.

27 Comments

  1. TDC say some difficult choices in cuts need to be made. I can give two easy choices where enough can be saved. Stop the payments towards the not needed train station near Manston and also stop the ridiculous waste at Ramsgate port with Brett.

    • Agreed. Maybe they’ll even start sweeping our streets and opening our public toilets again, as councils are supposed to…

  2. Just remember that the vast majority of the locals will not have the luxury of giving themselves a pay rise…that’s if they are even still in a mob.

  3. They have recently spent thousands on new signage at Westgate Bay to prevent over night camping in camper vans. They have also hired 2 Camper Van Marshall’s to patrol that area in the Summer. They will work 24/7 in peak times. They can’t come cheap!

  4. Another TDC budget coming soon which is like a house of cards. Every year we have this charade where the budget is “balanced” based on wildly optimistic and reckless assumptions on savings that will be delivered and extra income which will be received. Every year it doesn’t come to fruition which means an even bigger problem for the following year. It’s like some sort of perverted Ponzi scheme.

    I am genuinely surprised that the elected members aren’t looking more closely at the details of how the budget is going to “balance”. Every year they wave it through which just compounds the problem for future years. Come on, it’s your job to challenge !!

    TDC should rule out a staff pay rise this year. Especially with so many local people losing their jobs or on furlough. The 1% mentioned is misleading. Staff are also entitled to an increment in their pay alongside this so the end result can be way in excess of 1%.

    TDC should cut all non statutory posts. Focus on the areas residents need by law. We don’t need the growing band of communications roles who just constantly push out propaganda. I actually feel sorry for them as their job at times must be like trying to polish a t**d. Also the “digital” roles which are responsible for ideas like the loss making Trinity Square car parking scheme which cost the taxpayer £85k for no financial gain at all and the Viking Bay WiFi scheme which actually costs more to run than the income they receive.

    Finally TDC should pursue a combined local authority with neighbouring authorities. Why are we funding £100k plus salaries when they are far more capable people a few miles down the road doing exactly the same job ? This will also reduce the cost of councillor allowances across East Kent too.

    You’re welcome TDC. Expect all these ideas to be completely ignored.

    • Why don’t you stand as a councillor in the next election? Then you can give the benefit of your experience and insight directly to the council, rather than hoping they’ll read it on these pages?

      • I know a large number of them read these pages. They don’t, as a rule, reply to emails so this is the next best way of getting to them.

    • Pointless combining different councils if each council is still otherwise a seperate entity, you’d just end up with another EAST KENT HOUSING fiasco. Only way it would work is if you permanently combined several councils to form a larger overall administrative body.
      The problem is that we don’t have professional managers , just a bunch of idealistic councillors who just love pursuing their own little dreams with other peoples money , want quick results to show how clever they are and so have no intention/idea of how to get long term value for money. Then you have the senior and mid level officers in thecouncil who are just in the local government merry go round for every penny they can get.
      Give it a while and we’ll have another asset disposal proposal selling off anything for a bit of quick cash to try and sort things out. The failure to sell off Dreamland will have punched a big hole in the previous budget assumptions and will no doubt be pursued in the future if at all possible.

    • The idea of a combined council was on the cards and all four councils involved held a full council to vote on the same evening two or three years ago. There would have been savings on salaries and Councillors’allowances but Shepway Council held their meeting slightly earlier and voted it down. That was the end of that scheme. Too many vested interests?

      • Jenny Matterface. You hit the nail on the head with regard to slimming down the bureaucracy of local government by mergers creating combined authorities. ‘Too many vested interests’ in most Local Authorities at both senior officer and elected member level. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas!

  5. Its to easy just to put up costs instead of looking nearer to home, save money on future projects! concentrate on the now not the future until we can afford it

  6. Anyone remember Thanet council getting raided by police in the late 80/90. Funny how all information was lost yet next day they sent out council tax bills. Nothing change’s at TDC now they hope Londoner’s will buy up as much as they can on second homes. Turner centre should be self supportive, sell what they make and ££ made to be put back into the place rather than expect hand outs. Also hold councilors to account for there misleading ideas and total failures. But this is a world of greed and local people will always lose and be made to pay over and above for there stupid actions. They all have no idea just how to fill there own pockets and then move out of Thanet. Let’s hope global warming speeds up then Thanet might be a proper island then it may have a chance of being better then a dumping ground

  7. Maybe covid is the 3 world war that has been talked about. Human versa nature, nature will win I guess human race will decrease by up to 40% over the next 5 years. Stop being PC and be equal to all, lives matter, everyone should be in this mind set but £££££££ is all that matters so rich can sit back and watch the poor die. Sad but sounding more true as time passes use by

  8. An absolute sham! The money from developers’ back-handers should be more than enough to cover the council’s shortfall.

  9. Its ok the council will be looking at Croydon and thinking “blimey we’ve not borrowed much yet really , lets have another go and really waste some cash”. They don’t care there’s no responsibility attached to their decisions and they can just wander off into the sunset proclaiming “ i think i do good job”.

  10. The car parks used to be full up when the charges were reasonable now they are so overpriced that people will avoid them as much as possible but the council can not comprehend that increasing the charges brings in LESS revenue!! Lower the charges dramatically and the income from the parking fees will increase and the car parks will fill up again !! Simple remedy but too difficult for the council to understand!!

  11. Good idea put up council tax when the council has been given 2 million plus all there backhanders from the massive
    New plots and beach development … shame they can’t manage to clean the other end of seafront were caravans
    Are parked with poor dogs locked in cages with there box full of excrement and starving …and rubbish human waste
    Every in the car park when I asked the council driver who just said oh not my job how is this possible

  12. So TDC think it is alright to raise council tax, fees and charges by 2% in order to raise £400,000 towards the £840,00 budget shortfall. This will affect the vast majority of Thanet residents adversely.
    Would it not be more sensible to cancel the £2 million contribution TDC have agreed to pay towards the cost of the Thanet Parkway Station, the unnecessary and unwanted eighth station in this area? This would then provide a surplus which could be used to improve frontline, important services.
    But then when has TDC been a sensible authority?

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