Almost £118M is committed to projects for the benefit of South Somerset’s future as a balanced budget is delivered
A balanced budget which commits to almost £118M of capital investment through to 2024 in South Somerset is being delivered.
Councillors also unanimously agreed at a Full Council meeting on Monday evening (28 February) that the district council’s precept for Council Tax bills will rise by £5 per household per year (for a typical Band D property) in 2022/2023 (a 2.8% increase).
Cllr Peter Seib, Portfolio Holder for Finance and the council’s Deputy Leader, said: “In this, our last budget as a sovereign Council, we are delighted to be able to deliver a budget that will really make a difference for residents.
“The overall financial environment for local government over the last few years has been very challenging through increased demand for services, the impacts of reduced grant funding from central government, and, more recently, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Nationally, a number of councils have been under extreme financial stress but South Somerset District Council is not in this position. It has purposefully and prudently built-up its reserve balances while funding commercial investments to bring in additional income that helps to finance those highly valued services it provides to residents.
“I’m delighted that we have been able to commit to important investments for South Somerset’s future, to provide for maintaining services during local government reorganisation and yet we have still been able to limit our Council Tax increase to just 2.8%. This increase is well below inflation and the Council recognises the need to do all it can to help residents during the current cost-of-living crisis.”
What projects are being funded by South Somerset District Council?
A wide range of projects were committed to in 2021/22 including funding regeneration schemes in Chard (including the creation of a new leisure centre), Wincanton, Yeovil; providing £841,000 of disabled facility and home repair grants; £257,000 for improvements at Yeovil Recreation Centre, £319,000 on affordable housing projects and more.
Funding committed in 2022/23 will go to projects including a digital upgrade of CCTV in Yeovil town centre; rolling out more EV charging points across the district; refurbishing Yeovil Crematorium; funding improvements at recreation areas in Langport, Milborne Port and improving skate parks in Area South; and much more. You can see the full Capital programme here.
What new spending is included in the Capital programme?
The new projects for capital investment includes:
- Ham Hill (£1.624m): This is a project to improve the country park infrastructure and facilities. The site is currently on Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ register. Total expenditure is estimated to be £1.6m with £1.3m funded by National Lottery heritage grant.
- Huish Park (£2.8m): Our District Executive at its meeting in December 2020 agreed to purchase the land at Huish Park in Yeovil, including the land occupied by the Yeovil Town Football Club, in order to secure the public amenity provided by the site and the owner of the land is ready to proceed with the sale.
- Capital works on commercial property (£1.648m): A number of works maybe necessary on our existing commercial property portfolio (investments made purely for yield). Other work is pre-planned improvement to the property to ensure we continue to generate the best possible income for taxpayers from these assets
- Corporate Capital Contingency Budget (£4m): The Chief Finance Officer has proposed that a capital contingency of £4m is included in the capital budget to fund the risk of some budgets needing to be increased due to the exceptional high inflation currently being experienced in construction.
It also includes additional allowances to support the Yeovil Refresh and Wincanton Regeneration schemes alongside planned improvements at the Octagon Theatre. You can see further news about these projects on our website. The overall budget was approved by a 33 votes to 1 (six councillors abstained) and the Council Tax setting motion was approved unanimously.
How will this will be impacted by the creation of the new Somerset Council in 2023?
Limits on the spending of Somerset’s county and district councils in their final year before being replaced by a new unitary authority, were recently agreed by the Local Government Reorganisation (LGR), Joint Committee.
The Committee, which includes the Leaders of the five councils to be replaced in April 2023, made the declaration to preserve good management of taxpayers’ money in this last year of control over individual council budgets.
The capital projects which South Somerset District Council has already committed to are outside of this remit but an extensive review of projects has been carried out which has seen some planned projects deferred for a decision by the new Somerset Council.
This includes planned refurbishment projects at Council buildings including Brympton Way and Petters House in Yeovil.
Cllr Seib added: “This is a prudent and sensible approach as we look to continue delivering for our communities over the remaining term of South Somerset District Council but also look to the future where the new Somerset Council will have important decisions to make over the use of existing council buildings and assets.
“Similarly, we recognise that preparing for the creation of the new Somerset council in the final 15 months of South Somerset District Council will have a significant impact, and we made allowances in our budget for this. It is essential that we continue to deliver high quality services to our communities while also contributing to the development of the new council.
“We will do all we can to ensure that significant projects for South Somerset will continue to be delivered after the new council is created while ensuring our great record of delivering a balanced budget which is ambitious for the future and beneficial to all is carried forward into the new organisation.”