Investment in new CCTV and coastal enforcement staff and repairs for key council properties, an average 10% rise in fees and charges – including parking- and a 2.9% rise in council tax are some of the items included in Thanet council’s 2023/24 budget.
Cabinet members will discuss the financing of the year ahead at a meeting next week.
A report to councillors highlights rising costs due to inflation pressures but also a budget increase from £17.902m for this financial year (2022/23) up to £21.412m for 2023/24, which represents a £3.510m or 19.6% increase in spending on services.
The report says: “The next year’s budget has been developed in a relatively unstable macroeconomic environment; inflation is at a 40 year high, resulting in increased cost pressures for both the council and our core stakeholders such as the district’s residents, local businesses and the council’s service users.
“In budgetary terms these pressures are being realised directly through increased unit costs for items such as energy, fuel and utilities, alongside inflation linked contractual cost increases and also the need to agree a fair and affordable pay offer for staff. In addition to the increased costs for service provision, the macroeconomic environment is also resulting in increased demand for some of our services, most notably temporary accommodation for homelessness.”
The council budget is made up of government funding, council tax, fees and charges and retained business rates.
Council is expected to agree a 2.99% increase in the Band D equivalent, equal to a £7.42 increase per year or an extra 14p per week.
Council tax discounts will remain unchanged for 2023/24.
‘Long Term Empty Premium’ for properties that have been left empty and substantially unfurnished remains at -for periods of 2 years but less than 5 years, a Long Term Empty Premium to be charged at 100%; and for periods of 5 years but less than 10 years, a Long Term Empty Premium to be charged at 200%; and for periods of 10 years or more a Long Term Empty Premium to be charged at 300%
Thanet council receives around 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.
Fees and charges
Fees and charges are based on a broad 10% increase, which is expected to generate additional income of around £0.610m – this excludes Selective Licensing and On Street Parking.
A full parking review is due to be carried from April 2024, but in the meantime current parking charges would be increased by 10% or alternatively a comparable increase at each location so that is rounded to the nearest 10p.
The council report says: “Due to the high inflation environment that we are operating in, the council has seen a substantial increase in its own running costs and the cost of the services that it provides, including but not limited to an increase in fuel, energy and expected staffing costs.
“The council’s services are funded from a broad range of income streams, with fees and charges being just one means of financing.
“However, other sources of income have reduced or restricted in recent years, such as income from council tax and government grants. For instance, the council has limited discretion to vary council tax, with increases limited to the higher of £5 or 2.99%. Government funding has also reduced significantly over the past decade.
“Given these income restrictions and the need to balance the budget, locally generated sources of income such as fees and charges are even more important than ever and should be considered and treated as commercially as possible in order to optimise these income streams. It is important the council organises itself and invests in ways that maximise that income, whilst balancing this with managing the impact on our residents and service users.”
Parking charges have been reviewed and increased by 10% where possible, or alternatively a comparable increase at each location so that is rounded to the nearest 10p. This is expected to increase budget contribution for Off Street parking by £95k.
The finances associated with On-Street parking are managed separately and income is ring-fenced to a separate earmarked account, so whilst the changes in fees will result in total annual income increasing by £100k it cannot be used for the general fund budget.
Cabinet will review the potential to introduce car parking discounts for residents as part of a new parking strategy review. It is expected that the strategy will be published in June 2023.
Spend of £0.800m earmarked. The report says: “Homelessness has grown as a challenge for many local authorities over the last year or so, Thanet included. There are additional pressures on Housing Services as the gap between supply and demand increases.”
Council housing rent
Rent rises are capped at 7%. The proposed increase across the whole stock means an average rent is £94.84, this is an average increase of £6.20p per property per week.
Tenant service charge increases continue to be capped at £3 a week.
Pay awards – A 4% pay award has been assumed in the budget estimates and this pay-offer has been communicated with unions, the cost of this award is approximately £0.700m. This is in addition to a total 3% award in 2022/23, which wasn’t included in the 2022/23 budget. Cumulatively this results in an £880k pay pressure for the 2023/24 budget.
The exception to the average increase in pay are the lowest graded roles that are paid at the New Living Wage rate which will increase by 9.7% from 1 April 2023, an increase of 92p per hour, taking the rate to £10.42 per hour
Property Repairs and Maintenance £0.800m – The council holds £0.800m in its repairs and maintenance earmarked reserve and it is proposed to contribute this to the general fund revenue budget for 2023/24, in order to invest in corporate assets and infrastructure.
Coastal Enforcement £168k – It is proposed to create five new enforcement posts (Coastal Environmental Officers), providing resources for the enforcement of the Public Space Protection Orders. This will aid the district in maintaining the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards and protecting the coastal environment for the community and visitors.
Seaweed £45k – Additional resources to allow for extra seaweed collections from Thanet beaches have been included in the draft budget.
Coastal Cleansing £10k – It is proposed that a further £10k be allocated to this budget each year over the medium term. For 2023/24 this additional funding will be used for additional and improved signs to warn and inform on the risks of slips and falls on slipways and steps to the foreshore.
Technical Services and Grounds Maintenance £70k – Additional staffing resources for these two service areas have been included in the draft budget. The joint management of these services is currently being considered as part of a Corporate Management Team restructure consultation.
Climate Change £40k – A two year fixed term Climate Change Coordinator role to be created to assist the Climate Change Officer to deliver the council’s Net Zero strategy.
CCTV £45k – It is proposed to invest an extra £60k in the service, with £15k being charged to the Housing Revenue Account and return staffing levels back to pre-2022 levels. This will allow for two additional CCTV officers to be appointed, leading to an increase in active monitoring and control room coverage.
HR £57k – Additional staffing resources be provided for the HR function.
Visitor Information Services £13k – It is proposed to reverse a previous budget saving proposal, and to provide relatively modest levels of resources to maintain current levels of visitor information service provision.
Communications £24k – Additional staffing resources for the Communications function have been included in the draft budget. This will allow the creation of an additional Communications Officer and aid the council’s ambitions to drive more proactive communications
Other ‘self-funding’ investment
Property (£0.625m) – Restructure of the Property & Estates Team, with additional staff roles funded from an increase in rental income and the reallocation of some salary costs to capital projects.
Legal (£50k) – Additional staffing resources for legal services, primarily for property related activities and to be funded from an increase in property income.
Planning (£37k) – It is proposed to introduce a Section 106 monitoring charge in all planning obligations and legal agreements, with the additional income used to fund a full time Planning Obligations officer role to record and monitor Section 106 agreements.
Coastal (£11k) – The council is seeking to enter into a concession agreement for Margate tidal pool, with the corresponding income to be used to fund supervisory activities during peak season.
Private Sector Housing (£59k) – This proposal moves two existing and occupied posts from an unfunded position to being funded from costs expected to be recovered from the recent successful prosecution in this area and then from future selective licensing income on an ongoing basis..
Regeneration (£46k) – An additional Economic Development Officer role has been included in the draft budget. It is proposed that this role is wholly funded from a proportion of income council receives from the Kent Business Rate pool
Key changes to services:
Bulky Waste – Replace single price with a new pricing structure per individual item to “benefit customers who only have for example one smaller item. It is also expected this will help to reduce fly tipping.”
Green Garden Waste – Increase the annual fee from £55 to £65
Crematorium – All fees have been reviewed and increased at various levels with some more than the 10% target to reflect changes in customer demands and cost bases.
Planning – Pre-planning advice fees have been increased at various levels, with some more than the 10% target. For example, the charges for major developments have increased by up to 46%, whereas minor developments have seen relatively lower increases.
Allotments – Fees have been increased for the first time in 3 years.
Filming – Minimum charges have been increased, for example the filming fee for productions with crews of 75 or more people increasing by 50% from £1,000 to £1,500.
Port and Harbours – Charges have been reviewed and increased by 10%, making a significant budgetary contribution to fees and charges of £244k.
Income includes an estimated £100k from commercial property rents, £40k from increased planning application services, £25k from restructuring the Financial Services team and £400k increase due to interest earned on council investments
Refinancing of Your Leisure Loans will result in an expected saving of £160k.
Capital projects include:
Thanet council’s capital projects include a £51m programme over four years after successful bids to government for the Levelling Up Fund projects in Margate and Ramsgate and the Margate Town Deal.
Margate Levelling Up Fund – £6.3m for the Margate Digital campus.
Ramsgate Levelling Up Fund – £19.84m, with £14.0m currently programmed to be spent in 2023/24. Funding for investment in the port, a new green campus building to provide a centre for excellence for operations and maintenance including a training and low carbon business centre, development of the smack boys building into a hotel, improvements to fishing facilities, development of the clock house, new public realm at pier yard square and improvements to community space.
Margate Town Deal – £20.35m, with £7.750m currently programmed to be spent between 2023/24 and 2025/26. This scheme is for the creation of the Creative Land Trust, invest in the Theatre Royal, a programme to reinvigorate and provide new wellbeing infrastructure at key sites, improving links between key areas of the town and enhancing the Dreamland site.
Ramsgate Future High Street Fund – £2.7m, with £0.916m currently programmed to be spent in 2023/24. This scheme is for creative workspace and highway improvements.
Housing Assistance Policy (including Disabled Facilities Grants) £3m per annum rolling programme
Vehicle & Equipment Replacement Programme – £4.5m over four years, the size of the scheme has been increased significantly to include budget provision for electrification of refuse collection vehicles..
Property Enhancement Programme – £1m over 4 year programme to allow for capital enhancement to corporate property estate.
Homelessness Accommodation (Phase 2) 2023-24 and 2024-25. £2,220,000. The further provision of temporary accommodation to meet the needs of homeless people.
How the budget is funded
Central Government funding of:
Revenue Support Grant (RSG) £358k – RSG is a non-ring fenced grant that can be used for any purpose and TDC will receive £358k in 2023/24.
3% Funding Guarantee £227k – This grant is being introduced in 2023/24 and as its name suggests is provided to ensure authorities receive at least a 3% increase in their Core Spending Power. 5.12.
Services Grant £196k – This grant was introduced in 2022/23 as a one-off grant to be distributed to every authority in the country. Previous consultation made it very clear that this was a one-off grant, however it has continued on to 2023/24 despite this. The grant has been reduced by £152k compared to 2022/23
New Homes Bonus £415k – The Council will receive a bonus of £415k in 2023/24
The council has included £8.060m in next year’s budget from business rates related income
Council tax of around £11,631,000 and fees and charges income.
Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor David Saunders, said: “With unprecedented levels of inflation impacting on running costs such as fuel, utilities and staffing, uncertain levels of government funding and restrictions around increases in Council Tax, local councils have become more reliant than ever on locally generated sources of income such as fees and charges.
“In order to run the efficient services our customers expect, we need to approach the setting of our fees and charges commercially to maximise our income streams and to handle the pressures we face around rising costs.
“Clearly this has to be done in a way which manages the impact on our residents and service users as carefully as possible. To support this a robust review has been undertaken which started in the summer, benchmarking our fees and charges with other areas and exploring whether charges which have remained at the same level for some time, could now be increased.
“My thanks go to the Fees and Charges Cabinet Advisory Group for their suggestions and recommendations as part of this process. It’s critical that we provide an opportunity for Councillors from across the political spectrum to help shape these difficult decisions.”
What happens next
If Cabinet members approve the draft budget it will go to the Overview & Scrutiny Panel on 17 January and any recommendations will be considered by Cabinet on 26 January.
Final approval will go to Full Council on 9 February with council tax proposals approved at Full Council on 23 February.