Uttlesford sets out budget plans for 2023/24
Uttlesford District Council has proposed a budget for the next financial year that protects council services whilst also providing additional resource to support residents through the cost-of-living crisis.
Just as household budgets have been hit by spiralling costs, the council is also facing significant budgetary pressures from factors outside its control, such as high inflation and rising utility bills. Its funding from central government has also been significantly reduced over a number of years.
However, thanks to prudent financial management, a sound commercial investment programme and careful use of reserves, the council has been able to put forward a balanced budget for 2023/24 which maintains current levels of service. The budget is closely aligned to the council's Corporate Plan, which identifies key priorities for the council including its climate change initiatives and support for businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic.
Within the budget papers is also a proposal for a below-inflation Council Tax increase of just £5 a year - about 10p per week - for an average Band D property. This will generate an additional £195,000 that would be put into a Cost of Living Support Fund to provide council tax discounts to households who may be experiencing hardship, with a particular focus on those who are not eligible for other forms of support.
This is in addition to the discounts for vulnerable and low income residents through its local council tax support scheme, which remains the most generous in Essex.
Cllr Neil Hargreaves, Portfolio Holder for Finance and the Budget, said: "We understand the financial pressures many residents are facing, so we are proposing a fourth year of council tax increases held down to about 10p per week. This very modest increase will allow vital services provided by the district council to continue whilst also helping us to support residents through this difficult period."
He added: "Council budgets are under more pressure than ever and elsewhere many are having to make some very difficult decisions. We have a strong history of good financial management and have built an excellent commercial investment portfolio which has helped put us in a stronger position than many similar local authorities.
"Just like everyone else, we are experiencing rising costs and demands outside of our control. There remains uncertainty ahead, not least the unknown outcome of the government's long-awaited funding review for councils. We've had to use some reserves to balance the books this year, which is what the money is set aside to do, but like any responsible authority, we will continue to be diligent in looking for efficiencies, making the best use of the resources we have, and looking for new ways to raise income."
The budget papers, including the proposals for the 2023/24 year, the Medium Term Financial Strategy - which sets out how the council will manage its finances over the next five years - and the Commercial Strategy, have been discussed by the council's Scrutiny Committee and will next be considered by the Cabinet on 9 February. It will then be debated and voted on by all councillors at a meeting on 21 February.
Although Uttlesford District Council sends out Council Tax bills it doesn't keep all the money - it only keeps about 9p in every £1 collected. The rest is split between Essex County Council (about 71p in every £1 collected), Essex Police (about 11p), the Fire Service (about 4p) and the town and parish councils (on average about 5p).
7 February 2023