Eight jobs will be made redundant as part of a Thanet council restructure.
The job losses are part of budget measures aimed at plugging a £840,000 deficit for the 2021-22 financial year.
Council finances have been significantly impacted by the covid pandemic, although Cllr Rob Yates – responsible for finance – says Thanet is in a better position than council which have made commercial investments and so rely on commercial rents and those which have not reduced borrowing.
At a meeting of Cabinet members tonight (January 14) he said: “This budget has been set during a totally unprecedented period for local government.”
He said the authority work force had been ‘diminished’ by covid and despite government funding not all losses due to the virus, such as those for business rates and fees and charges, would be compensated. In a time of higher expenditure and lower income the current national lockdown is adding to these pressures.
He added: “Some businesses will not have survived or have built up debt, many people will have lost jobs. It is unlikely that Thanet will bounce back to its pre-covid state, at least not in the short term.”
Cllr Yates said the coming year would “require savings” although efforts had been made to “minimise the impact on services and redundancies.”
He added: “I am please to report a minimal impact on services, especially frontline services. There are up to 8 posts that will be deleted and the people occupying those posts will be going through restructuring.
“Although it is too early to say some of those might be subject to compulsory redundancy but every effort will be made to find alternative council employment for them.”
Cllr Yates did not reveal which roles were under threat but budget documents suggest staff ‘savings’ in finance and procurement; maritime operations; coastal development and tourism; neighbourhood services and building control.
Council tax rise
Cabinet members at the meeting approved a report containing the budget measures and proposals for a rise in council tax of £4.99 – or 2.1% – increase per year for Thanet District Council’s element of Council Tax for a Band D property. This equates to a weekly increase of around 10p.
The Budget sets out how the council will allocate £17.165million to fund services from April 2021 – March 2022.
Plans include 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.
The budget will now be considered at a full Council meeting in February.
There are expected to be shortfalls in the collection of council tax and business rates due to 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 with a non payment estimate of £600k. 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
Income from fees, including parking, are also expected to be hit as Covid restrictions continue. This includes Dreamland car park,part of the Dreamland estate sale to amusement park operator SHL, resulting in a forecast loss of £150k income for the year.
Your Leisure – The council’s leisure trust, Your Leisure, is facing a substantial shortfall in its income as a result of Covid, as are all leisure trusts.
The council has paid its management fee for the year up front, and has paid an additional £160k to the trust. This additional fee is equivalent to the previously agreed 2020-21 budget saving in the management fee that will not be achieved as a result of the pandemic.
Ongoing discussions are taking place with Your Leisure to establish their resourcing requirements, which could lead to further demands on the council’s finances
The council says permanent savings must be made.
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.” Up to eight job losses have been announced.
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.
The council’s property holdings total of £267 million net book value after depreciation has been applied.
Where assets are no longer viable or surplus to requirements they will need to be disposed of in order to reduce the council’s liabilities and to generate capital receipts to fund new developments or be transferred for community benefit.
The creation of new investment assets, such as new beach huts, will be explored to create additional income.
Social rents have been set based on government rent guidance. Affordable Rents are linked to local market rents and to the Local Housing Allowance for the area. Rents are applied to individual properties at the lower of either 80% of the local market rent or the Local Housing Allowance.
Councillors have raised concerns about the impact of a rent increase on current tenants and, as a result, the budget suggests a CPI+1% increase for social rent tenants and a freeze for affordable rent tenants. Based on the proposed increase across the whole stock the average rent is £84.94, this is an average increase of £1.89p per property per week
Service Charge Increases
Tenant service charge increases continue to be capped at £3 a week.
Planned capital projects include:
Jet-Ski Berths at Ramsgate Marina.
Ramsgate Port – Berth 1 Refurbishment
Thanet District LED Lighting – convert council owned street/open spaces lighting to LED (also replacing lamp columns where necessary).
Replacement Crematorium Chapel Roof to make the roof watertight and reduce the need for repairs.
Royal Harbour Multi-Storey Car Park Lift Replacement.
Government funding includes:
A further tranche of emergency Covid funding in 2021-22 of £1.016m.
A promise of further support for quarter one of 2021-22 for losses in sales, fees and charges due to Covid.
A Local Income Tax Guarantee scheme to assist with irrecoverable losses of Council Tax and Business Rates in 2020-21, value currently unknown.
A Local Council Tax Support grant to assist with additional costs of Council Tax Support, worth approximately £300k in 2021-22.
Revenue Support Grant of £100k rolled over for one more year to 2021-22.
A Lower Tier Services grant, probably one-off, worth £215k in 2021-22.
Consideration of using the Minor Works team to generate income from selling handyperson services.
A review of printing services income and expenditure including scope to in-source more printing.
Growth in income generated from fees and charges.
Investigation of more shared services including leadership teams.
Expand the CCTV service to sell to other external organisations.
Increase the use of direct debits to improve income collection across all chargeable services.
The budget pot
The money that is used to fund public services is made up of Council Tax, income including fees and charges, retained Business Rates and Government funding (including Revenue Support Grant and New Homes Bonus).
Thanet District Council receives just 12p 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.