We have set our budget, allocated our resources and created priorities based on engaging with you, our residents, and listening to what you have told us. So, what is happening,
We have worked hard this year to plug a forecast gap of £1.5m in our budget and create room for the investment of £945,000 in projects to improve our neighbourhoods - projects we are proposing include making additional Pride teams permanent, continuing funding for enforcement officers to fight crime against our environment, putting resources into increased local policing, reinstating free Saturday parking and supporting people seeking work and new skills.
We have also invested £2m to support the local economy and regeneration in the borough. This will be used to develop local business opportunities and create jobs, along with improving our town centres and areas where you live.
Meanwhile our government funding continues to fall - by almost 40% in the last four years - and the government assumes we will put up council tax by the full 2.99% we are allowed. If we chose not to do this, it would make it even harder to maintain services and invest where our communities need it, not just this year, but in every coming year.
We looked long and hard at alternatives to making this rise, which for most people in our borough is 14p a week or less. But we know if we don't raise council tax this year, it puts even more pressure on our budgets in coming years, making it harder to maintain services and invest where our communities need it. We are making commercial investments and finding new ways to earn income to offset loss of funding and reduce the burden on taxpayers. And we are using some of our reserves to support our spending while continuing to put enough aside to provide protection for our services in uncertain times. But it's still not enough to avoid making the decision we didn't want to make. Let me reassure you we will make every effort to minimise any rises in the future.
In return for this modest increase in council tax this year we will be clear with you how we spend your money and how our communities will benefit. We have set out our ambitions for the borough in a new corporate plan using the building blocks of people, place and growth for future success, each working hand in hand to enrich each other. And we will continue to be open about the decisions we are making and why we are making them.
I am passionate about making this borough the best it can be, providing opportunities for everyone who makes this special place their home.
Councillor Andrew Baggott, Council Leader