Thanet council’s budget for 2023/24 was approved by councillors last night (February 9) and includes an amendment to freeze resident and visitor parking permits at their current level.
Measures agreed include 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 cash for extra seaweed collections.
The 10% rise planned for parking permits was reversed following an amendment proposal from Labour’s Rob Yates who said the council needed to protect residents from price hikes.
The council’s finance officer said income from residents permits was around £50,000 per year plus £14,000 per year from visitor permits. Freezing the price at the current levels would mean a ‘manageable’ loss of £6000.
Councillors voted to back the proposal.
Failed amendment proposals
Cllr Steve Albon proposed taking money from the estates team budget to help pay for three additional waste team staff but Cabinet Member for Environmental Services Bob Bayford said a review of the service was already taking place adding: “We believe we can improve the service without extra budget.”
Councillors voted 20in favour of the amendment but 28 against with 2 abstaining.
Cllr Ruth Duckworth asked for money to be moved from the seaweed removal allocation to be used instead to pay for a permanent tree officer.
Council leader Ash Ashbee said seaweed removal was important for many residents. She added that the tree officer funding originally came from the Queen’s Canopy scheme and other funding could be sought from central government or the Forestry Commission.
The proposal was voted down with 28 against, 16 in favour and 6 abstaining.
The last amendment put forward by the Labour group was to freeze parking charges at Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour multi-storey (Leopold Street). Cllr Rick Everitt highlighted the lifts were still not working despite previously having had £332,000 allocated for repairs under the Labour administration, meaning people with disabilities or prams were using the motorists’ ramp to get down to street level.
Although there was general agreement of the ‘disgusting’ state of the multi-storey, Cabinet member for finance David Saunders said it could be looked at as part of a parking review being undertaken in June.
The proposal was voted down with 29 against, 19 in favour and 2 abstaining.
Ramsgate Green Party members Tricia Austin and Becky Wing also abstained from the overall budget vote due to concerns over the lack of detail about spending at Ramsgate Port.
The councillors said although they had repeatedly asked for information concerning port expenditure and the concrete production lease agreement, details were still vague and so they would have to abstain from the vote.
Councillors agreed to the recommendations around financing the public services provided and spending on new proposals; and on ways that all this can be financed.
Cllr David Saunders, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “I’m very pleased we’ve delivered a balanced budget for the year ahead. Everyone involved has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to get to the position we are in now. My thanks go to all who have contributed to this process.
“Despite what may seem like a lengthy and complicated process, this level of planning is of critical importance. It’s how we continue to deliver the services that matter to people and protect and support our most vulnerable residents.
“The approved budget increases our net spending on local services by £3.5m (or 19.6%) for the financial year. This is a really significant increase. The district council faces the same cost increases as everyone else on fuel, transport and pay, and this has to be funded.
“In addition to the increased cost of delivering services, the wider difficult economic climate means that demand for some key services, most notably temporary accommodation for homeless people, is rising. Providing a safety net for people who have nowhere to live is one of the most important things we do, but it is demand-driven and costs are rising.
“I am also proud that we will be investing in some of the council’s key services, which make a difference to local people, for example on improved CCTV, recruiting coastal enforcement officers and more money for coastal cleansing.
“Despite the fact that inflation is running at around 10%, our core funding has only increased by 5.8% and the council is only allowed to increase Council Tax by a maximum of 3%.
“Therefore we’ve needed to maximise our local income, so that we can improve and provide quality services for local people. We’ll be doing this by maximising key income streams and charging for services which are only used by a limited proportion of residents. As such, our strategy has been to apply a broad 10% increase to fees and charges where possible, which is expected to generate additional income of £610,000 for next year’s budget. I’d like to thank members of the cross-party Cabinet Advisory Group and to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel for their input into this process.”
Labour leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “This budget increases the council’s day to day spend by 19.6% next year and includes significant growth in officer numbers, but it focuses heavily on back-office staff, with a £675,000 per year uplift in the estates and legal services team.
“Labour recognises the council is understaffed in these areas and that the investment should pay for itself, but a lot of the work in estates is catching up with a backlog and therefore relatively short term. It doesn’t all need to be done by permanent staff.
“By funding two surveyor post from reserves for two years, costing £85,000 a year, we could have had three more people out cleaning residential streets from April. It is the number one concern we get on the doorstep. Three extra people wouldn’t solve the problem, but at least it would have shown the council is listening and moving in the right direction.
“The Tories objected to the use of reserves, but they are already taking nearly £1m from reserves this year. This is a relatively small sum. It would have made a difference.”
Cllr Helen Whitehead, deputy Labour leader and shadow cabinet member for housing, expressed concerns regardng the 7% increase in council rents. She also pointed out that a Conservative plan to spend £415k of New Homes Bonus funding on temporary accommodation for those made homeless was the same as a Labour proposal the Tories had voted down last year. In the meantime, costs had increased substantially.
The overall vote for the budget was 44 in favour, 1 against and 5 abstaining.
Council Tax rise of 2.99% 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%
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.
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.
Resident and visitor parking permits to be frozen at current rates
Spend of £0.800m.
Council housing rent
Rent rises are capped at 7%. The 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.
Property Repairs and Maintenance £0.800m – The council holds £0.800m in its repairs and maintenance earmarked reserve and this will be put in this to the general fund revenue budget for 2023/24, in order to invest in corporate assets and infrastructure.
Coastal Enforcement £168k – Creating five new enforcement posts (Coastal Environmental Officers), providing resources for the enforcement of the Public Space Protection Orders.
Seaweed £45k – Additional resources to allow for extra seaweed collections from Thanet beaches.
Coastal Cleansing £10k –Additional funding to 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.
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 –Returning staffing levels back to pre-2022 levels. 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 – Reversing a previous budget saving proposal 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 for an additional Communications Officer
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) – 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) – Move 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 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.
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.
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 and parish councils.
£45K is a hefty amount for removing seaweed from the beaches, is it recycled as it is a valuable gardening/agricultural resource?
“repairs for key council properties”. Yay! Really looking forward to the repair and reopening of the theatres, lifts and toilets! I’m so happy!
With this lot, don’t hold your breath!!
Nothing though about buying new BROOMS to keep the place tidy. People are starving and cold but thank god they haven’t increased the parking. There’s a lot of numbers being bounced about yet the people very seldom see change.
Give the seaweed to Haeckels. They can go and remove it. Use the 45k saving to teach staff how to do their job.
Has anyone else heard that Craig McKinley is not standing at the next general election. My Doctor told me this morning.
Maybe he’ll sit down?
Not all good therapy needs to be truthful?
I suspect that our Craig won’t be the only Tory MP who will rather step down at the next election rather than face the ignominy of attracting fewer votes than the Raving Looney” candidate.
Kent will stay largely blue. Trust me on that, Andy.
It’ll be one of the very, very few Tory seats, then.
A recent poll showed that had there been a GE last Thursday, the Tories would have returned fewer candidates than the Lib Dems.
I remember the polls that predicted Remain would win and Trump would never become President, so I ignore them and get outside and talk to people instead.
Haven’t heard that about Craig McKinley but our doctors at Bethesda surgery seem to have given up medicine in favour of telemarketing. Oct/Nov figures for face to face appointments were .07% and 4.3% respectively.
The God Squad!
Would be nice to see more toilets open. No wonder not many people go shopping in the towns now toilets all closed. They will continue to look like ghost towns and with parking charges higher than London.
If the incumbents at Westminster and Thanet are so confident why are they jumping on every dog whistle bandstand in a vain attempt to bolster their support base,which is old dyed in the wool Checksfield and the angry over 60’s.
Govts wax and wane in popularity but the consistent opinion poll ratings are dire for the the Tory party.The caveats here are,poll ratings are not election results and often poll ratings are not always translated into election results.The Govt might pull out something out the bag, but a fag end govt with a lot of skeletons in the cupboard is facing a momentum which appears to favour change.not just political change but social change.
Kent may well stay blue,but is that a good thing? If the red wall collapsed is a blue citadel collapse a refreshing change from the complacent lack of action and helplessness experienced by the many deprived areas of Kent.
Is your memory going? I suspect so, otherwise you’d be fully aware that I have and I do vote for just about everyone… unlike angry socialists like you, Nokesy Boy.