Broxtowe Borough Council voted unanimously to approve the new budget for the authority’s spending plan over the next year, which included plans to freeze council tax for the fifth year in a row, without any compulsory redundancies or reduced services.
Council leader Milan Radulovic, Labour, wrote his final statement of this council’s term before the next local elections in May.
Read out at the full meeting at Beeston Town Hall on Wednesday, March 4, Cllr Radulovic said the authority had undergone a “sea change in Council funding” over the past five years.
He added: “Since 2010-11 our direct funding from Government has fallen by 57 per cent - that’s £4.08m less for our budget compared to four years ago.
Our financing has been maintained partly by New Homes Bonus, although, because of the limited room for development in Broxtowe, we are the 17th lowest funded Council in the country from this source.”
The council has also maintained income from increased business rates
“But, whatever way you look at it, the 2015-16 settlement has been a poor one for the Council.”
It has met huge cuts, including benefits and Council Tax Support subsidies, despite increases in claimant numbers, imposed benefits caps and the Bedroom Tax, but has faired all these cuts, minimising the impacts of reductions and providing for people’s needs, Mr Radulovic said.
He added: “We have done all this without a single compulsory redundancy, without any reductions in services and while maintaining our own levels of funding to local voluntary organisations who work alongside us to provide services to local communities.
But the council is not alone, he continued.
“We continue to hear of multi-million pound reductions at councils across the country with the inevitable impact on staffing levels, the ability to deliver high-quality services to communities and the withdrawal of investment in local infrastructure and projects.
Yet Broxtowe has done its best to minimise the impact of funding reductions and continues to freeze Council Tax.
It has extended it’s voluntary redundancy scheme to allow for more flexible staff base, resulting in no compulsory redundancies, and a £1.8-million cut on staff costs.
Income from Garden Waste collection, has “surpassed all expectations”, said Mr Radulovic, and is likely to reach £500,000 in the coming year.
Income has also come from the new Lifeline scheme and increases in car parking and planning fees.
Mr Radulovic said these would be even more crucial in the future.
He added: “As we move away from direct government funding to reliance on business rates and other locally generated forms of income we will need to make the most of our position on the outskirts of Nottingham.”
This will mean making the most of Broxtowe as growth area from opportunities like the tram, town centre regeneration and HS2.
“The Core Strategy is a far-reaching and ambitious document which, along with the Local Plan and Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments, will provide a platform for major developments that will bring jobs and business growth into the area while continuing to develop Broxtowe as a place to live, work and enjoy.
“I am particularly excited about the proposed developments of 1,500 plus homes on Brownfield land demonstrating this Council’s continuing commitment to protect our green space. And, of course, we all hope that the site of the HS2 station at Toton will be finally confirmed in the coming months, creating further significant growth opportunities, not only for Broxtowe but for the East Midlands as a whole.
But he said disappointment around Beeston’s tram extension should not detract from the redevelopment of the town centre.
“It is pleasing to note that our town centres have continued to thrive during the worst of the recession (and the impact of the tram works) and Advisory Committees established at Eastwood and Kimberley are exploring ways in which we can continue to maintain those town centres as the vibrant locations that we want them to be.”
Mr Radulovic reitereated the council’s intention to freeze income tax.
He added: “I have mentioned in my speech the financial difficulties facing so many people in our society at this time and the commitment the Council has made to playing its part to reduce that burden. I am pleased to reiterate again this Council’s intention to freeze council tax in 2015/16 – the fifth consecutive year that it has been maintained at this level despite the huge reduction in government resources and inflation levels running at well in excess of the 1 per cent freeze grant available from government. I feel that it is the right thing to do for the people whom we represent.”
The budget also proposed to withdraw around £200,000 from the Council’s general fund balances, which Mr Radalovic said is “more than I would like”. However this is considerably less than the £970,000 that the council expected to have to find in 2015/16 at the last budget, he added. It will also be withdrawing £120,000 from the election reserve to meet the cost of the forthcoming election, and £55,750 from the Council Tax Support Scheme reserve - utilising funds set aside for these specific purposes.