Council must make over £10m savings in year ahead

North Somerset Council, like many councils across the country, is facing a very difficult budget setting process for 2018/19.

Having already incorporated £90m of revenue savings into its budget since 2010, the continuing fall of government funding, along with significant increases in demand for social care services, mean the council will have to find further savings of over £10m next year.

The council’s Executive will meet next week to debate plans to close the gap in next year’s budget.

Council officers have been working hard in recent months to identify potential areas where additional savings can be made. Because of the significant levels of savings already generated, the ability to drive further large scale savings has become increasingly difficult. The focus remains on transforming the way services are delivered and adopting a more commercial approach.

The council has kept council tax increases low for a number of years and has also accepted the government’s freeze grant on several occasions, both of which have enabled local residents to have a very low level of council tax compared to others. This also means that the council has a low tax-base, and is effectively being penalised, with less opportunity than other councils to address the shift in funding resources from government grants to locally-generated income sources.

By 2020, over 92 per cent of the council’s budget is expected to be funded through council tax and business rates income rather than through the revenue support and other government grants. The council’s strategic approach to long-term sustainable budgeting is to create a largely self-sufficient financial position by 2021.

Delivering structured growth of housing and business with the required infrastructure is key to this. An increased council tax base and more local business rates will reduce reliance on the inevitable declining funding from central government.

The Executive meeting where the council’s medium term financial plan will be debated takes place on Tuesday 5 December at 2.30pm at the Town Hall in Weston-super-Mare. The report is available on the council’s website. After this, members will have the opportunity to scrutinise budget proposals during December, and all savings proposals must also be assessed for the impacts they will have on recognised equalities groups.

The final budget will be considered again by the Executive on 6 February before the budget is set, and Council Tax rates agreed at the Full Council meeting on 20 February.