Council sets out budget proposals

South Somerset District Council is proposing to set a balanced budget for the year ahead with no cuts to services.

Up until recently, the main source of funding for councils was Government grants. However, since 2010 all councils have seen a significant cut in their funding from Government, sustaining the biggest funding cuts of any part of the public sector. This year South Somerset's per dwelling Core Spending Power is to be cut by a further 10.5%, the highest amount for any Local Authority. Despite this we are still protecting services and balancing the budget in 2018/19.

To balance the budget whilst maintaining services, the Council is implementing a strategy to modernise services and secure efficiencies as well as being more commercial and generating additional income.

SSDC's ambitious Transformation Programme is delivering savings which will rise to £2.5m a year by 2019. "Transformation" is a comprehensive re-design of service delivery, investing in a successful future, cutting costs and improving levels of customer service. Transformation also 'future proofs' SSDC by creating an organisation and culture that can continually adapt to an ever changing environment, becoming an attractive employer which provides opportunities in new and fulfilling roles within a modern organisation.

The commercial approach has started to generate additional revenue through, for example, recently purchased retail properties in Yeovil Town Centre including Marks & Spencer and Wilko, which will help to provide important income to support council services and the town centre economy as well as supporting the Council's regeneration ambitions.

Of the £6m savings required over the next five years, the Council has secured £3.5m with a further £2.5m of savings still to be identified. This will close the remaining budget gap and provide important funding for investment in the community. The Council has a clear strategy in place to close the remaining gap through further efficiency improvements and increased commercial income over next few years.

As part of the budget, the Council's Executive Committee is recommending that SSDC increases its Council Tax by £5 a year, raising the annual Band D charge in line with inflation by 3.18% to £162.48 a year (£3.12 per week). This charge includes £160.63 for all South Somerset District Council services (£3.08 per week) and £1.85 for the Somerset Rivers Authority.

Councillor Peter Seib, Portfolio Holder for Finance at South Somerset District Council said, "Local people and businesses all depend to some extent on the many services that SSDC provides, and the Council's leadership decided very early on that cutting services in these austere times does not meet our ambitions, and would be very harmful to residents and to the economy. We also want to protect regeneration work in Yeovil, Chard and Wincanton, to "do more with less". Careful management of the Council's finances in the past has given us the option to be creative, investing resources in clever ways to generate new income and investing to transform the ways of working so we can "do more with less". Staff have been absolutely brilliant in rising to these challenges and despite being the hardest hit Council nationally this year, we have a balanced budget and a sound strategy to keep delivering services".

The budget proposals have been reviewed by the Council's Scrutiny Committee today and will now be considered by the Executive Committee on 1 February 2018. The final decisions will be made by Full Council on Thursday 22 February 2018.

To view the full 2018/19 Draft Revenue and Capital Budgets and Medium Term Financial Plan report, please visit http://modgov.southsomerset.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=2132&Ver=4.

South Somerset District Council's share of the overall Council tax bill is about 10% of the total, with the remainder going to fund Somerset County Council, Police and Fire services, and Town and Parish Councils.