The first budget for Somerset West and Taunton Council has been set without cuts to services.
The balanced budget for 2019/20 means the new Council can continue to invest in boosting the local economy, maintaining the commitments previously made by Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils, including the planned spending of £16m of New Homes Bonus and £15m of Community Infrastructure Levy funds on vital regeneration and infrastructure investment.
The new Council will also support the economy through additional proposals such as pump priming grants for business start-ups and funding towards electric vehicle charging points; and will make further improvements to its own financial position through building its commercial approach and generating new income streams.
SWT will be investing more than £100m in running much valued services, such as:
- Collecting and recycling household waste
- Providing financial assistance to customers through measures such as housing benefit and council tax support
- Keeping our main streets clean and tidy
- Providing support and accommodation to prevent and minimise homelessness
- Investing in arts, culture and leisure facilities
- Looking after parks and open spaces
- Supporting and managing development through planning
- Bereavement services
- Off street car parking
Council Leader John Williams said: “It’s a significant achievement that we have set a balanced budget for the new Council which protects services and invests in the economy despite the challenges faced by local authorities through cuts in government funding.
We know there is uncertainty beyond next year with the Spending Review and further reforms on the horizon for Business Rates and New Homes Bonus. However the new Council starts off on a sound financial footing with positive longer term prospects. It’s a rare position to have a projected balanced budget for the next 3-5 years.
We will continue to face pressures on our services, and may see further reductions in funding in future, but are ready to face that challenge from solid foundations. “
The Council together with neighbouring authorities in Somerset is part of a Business Rates Pool which has bid successfully to be a pilot for 75% Retention – which has the potential to keep around £7m of additional funding within Somerset. SWT’s forecast share of this gain is around £1.2m and a special Economic Growth and Prosperity Fund has been created for this.
Forming the new Council has also meant implementing a uniform Council Tax rate across the whole of the new Council area. Currently the rates for both Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils are similar with a small difference of £2.32 a year between the two Councils for the Band D rate. The new Band D Council Tax for SWT has been set at £159.63 – a little over £3 per week for all the services provided by the new Council. It includes £1.75 collected for the Somerset Rivers Authority.