Playparks, planning and protecting services (with no cuts!) - this is how SSDC is delivering for you
Thanks to the innovative decisions which have been taken at South Somerset District Council, we are able to announce another balanced budget in 2020/21.
SSDC’s District Executive Committee yesterday agreed the draft plan that outlines there will be no cuts to the budget and therefore no cuts to services. The next step will be for the financial plan to be considered by all councillors later this month for final approval before being implemented.
Balancing the budget means we can protect the vital services we provide for our communities and deliver a wide range of priority projects which will make a real difference in our communities.
Councillor Peter Seib, portfolio holder for finance at SSDC, said: “Following last year's elections, the new Council really stepped up work on climate change and on the environment. We're also putting a leisure centre into Chard, leading the Yeovil Refresh and delivering on Wincanton's Neighbourhood Plan. There are other projects all across the District, all with a distinct social benefit. SSDC's new Council Plan sets these out very clearly showing what people can expect and when.
“Significantly, the tough decision that the last Council took to invest millions in new ways of working are now paying off in reduced costs. Buying property, which the council then rents out, is contributing significant income, even after all of the costs new borrowing involves. The net result is that despite losing even more centrally controlled income, and a tight £5 tax cap imposed by the Government, South Somerset has been able to protect your services from cuts, including in those new areas where partners withdrew last year, such as Citizen's Advice and rough sleeping.
“I'm hoping people will see this budget as caring, responsible and above all local, government.”
How does this affect me?
Balancing the budget means there will be no cuts in services. That means we can continue to provide our excellent services from playparks and free Playdays to planning and deliver a wide range of priority projects which will make a real difference in our communities.
We have a Council Plan that highlights our priorities and areas of focus across South Somerset – many of these areas of focus highlight how we will spend our budget to help our district have a naturally beautiful and sustainable environment that also allows business to flourish and good homes to be delivered; a place where our communities are safe, vibrant and healthy and have access to exceptional cultural and leisure activities.
There are changes to your Council Tax bill, but we’ve explained this further down.
What are the services SSDC provides?
Here are some the fantastic wide range of things we provide:
- A planning service that deals with around 2,000 applications a year on average, offers building regulation advice and approvals, plus much more
- A waste and recycling kerbside collection service to around 72,000 households in South Somerset – this includes dealing with kerbside waste and recycling collections but also providing a garden waste service, bulky waste collections, assisted collections, clinical collections plus providing assistance to the Somerset Waste Partnership to manage missed collections and implement Recycle More across South Somerset and beyond
- A benefits service that can help you pay your rent or reduce your Council Tax – we offer help and advice if you are getting benefits and have a change in your circumstances and we also help you to report someone you think might be falsely claiming benefits. We offer a fantastic welfare benefits advice service
- Council Tax collection – as well as collecting our part of the Council Tax bill, we are also the charging authority for Somerset County Council, Somerset Rivers Authority, your local Parish Council, Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue service and Somerset & Avon Police. We offer discounts and exemptions depending on your circumstances and we have a team of dedicated staff who can help you
- Leisure facilities – As well as our cultural offerings of The Octagon Theatre and Westlands Entertainment Venue, we also provide facilities such as Wincanton Sports Centre, Westlands and Goldenstones in Yeovil. As part of our Chard Regeneration Scheme, we are also providing a new leisure facility with swimming pool in Chard. Don’t forget the fantastic range of play equipment in most towns and villages that we also provide or fund
- Recreational facilities – Yeovil Recreation Centre, Ham Hill Country Park, Chard Reservoir and Yeovil Country Park are all areas that we own and maintain for your pleasure and enjoyment
- Street cleaning and horticultural services – We empty litter and dog poo bins across Somerset. We sweep your streets and litter pick them. We cut many parts of grassland across the district and maintain the flower beds; producing beautiful displays such as our award winning display in St Johns Churchyard in Yeovil
- Environmental Health – We deal with a wide range of environmental health issues including nuisances, food related issues, pest control services, dog related issues including stray dogs, business inspections, air quality and pollution monitoring and enforcement action
There’s lots more that we provide or fund including Health Walks, grants for improvements, off-street car parking, plus much, much more. You can visit our website at www.southsomerset.gov.uk and browse the services we offer. We even run and manage all elections within South Somerset!
But let’s set the record straight – we don’t fix potholes… that’s Somerset County Council alongside other matters related to roads, social care, education and libraries.
What does this mean for Council Tax?
In this financial plan, we set out our precept for the Council Tax bill – that’s how much we charge each household for our services. This year, we are proposing an annual Council Tax increase of just 2.99% which will see the annual Band D rate increase by just £5 to £172.11 a year. To put that in perspective, that’s just over £3 a week for everything we provide.
How is the Council Tax bill calculated?
Every Council Tax bill is broken down into 14 parts. It’s important to read all of your bill so you understand what you need to pay, when you need to pay it, how you can pay it and who is getting what share of the total.
We’ve broken down an old Council Tax bill to show you exactly what you will receive through the post in the coming weeks. The bill breaks down each precept (charge to each authority) for you, so you’ll see exactly who gets what. Visit our website to see your Council Tax bill explained.
What are the Council’s priorities?
Each year we set our priority projects. For 2020/21 there are eight. All of these help to meet our core aims, but primarily help to make South Somerset a better place to live, work and leisure in.
Our priority projects are:
- Fully realise the benefits of Transformation and further embed the Commercial Strategy
- Progress implementation of the Chard Regeneration project
- Continue the refresh of Yeovil town centre
- Progress project to aid the regeneration of Wincanton town centre
- Develop proposals to accelerate the delivery of key housing sites and association infrastructures
- Assess options for improving community transport links
- Develop proposals to support struggling families and help address child poverty and low rates of social mobility in the district
- Accelerate action to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather.
How has the Council managed to balance the budget when Government funding has been cut?
We have a robust Financial Strategy that was approved in September 2019 that sets out how we aim to balance the budget annually. As part of that Financial Strategy, we have a Commercial Strategy that sets out how investment in new assets will help with income.
The Council is currently operating in a complex financial climate where it needs to deliver savings rising to £6 million per year until 2022. This is in addition to having to cut its costs substantially since 2010.
SSDC has sustained a 70 per cent reduction in its Government grant funding since 2010 and further reductions are likely in the future whilst demand for and costs of many services continues to rise. It became clear that SSDC needed to make the most out of its assets and look for new opportunities which could generate income to protect the wide range of services our communities receive and create opportunities to fund new projects.
It has seen the Commercial Services and Income Generation team given a significant ongoing annual income target for commercial investment income and great progress is being made.
We’ve also invested in new technology to allow our fantastic staff to deliver services more efficiently for their communities. This includes offering a much wider range of our services online, 24/7, for your convenience. We are creating a modern, effective, highly skilled council that is better able to deal with the needs of the 21st century.