Rother's 2023/24 budget consultation
The current budget position
We are all facing cost pressures and challenges which make the current financial climate extremely difficult for both businesses and residents. Economic uncertainty is hitting the Council too, with increasing interest rates and high inflation significantly impacting several of the Council’s budgets. The cost-of-living crisis means hard times for many of our residents and we are still feeling the impact of Covid and ongoing pressures around Brexit.
The current financial pressures we are facing come off the back of over a decade of reductions in central government funding. We still are not clear yet what levels of funding will be provided for 2023/24.
The result of all of this is difficult choices for future budgets for district Council services. We have a history of sound financial management and have used some of our reserves to smooth the impact of these challenges. However we still face a possible budget shortfall of about £2.2million next year, and this is also dependent on being able to deliver savings as part of our Financial Stability Programme.
While in the short term we can use our reserves to temporarily support any budget gaps, that is not a sustainable position as once the reserves are spent, they are gone. To make the Council’s financial position sustainable over the medium term we need to meet the shortfall with a mix of efficiency savings, extra income, and budget reductions.
We’re proud of our achievements
We survived the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping virtually all our services running through resilient financial management in the face of a global pandemic. We’ve delivered;
- Nearly £49million in various grant schemes to local businesses over the period of the pandemic, involving 6,560 separate payments
- £4.8million in Council Tax rebate (the £150 scheme) to Rother council taxpayers during 2022/23 to support with the cost of living crisis.
- Since 2019 we have paid out 83 Community Grants totalling almost £0.5million
- A town council for Bexhill has been created
- Live streaming of all our meetings via our website
- The Environment Strategy which is progressing following the declaration to become carbon neutral by 2030
- Continued development of the new Local Plan, with its Green to the Core and age friendly communities’ themes
- A return of over 3% by investing £33million through our Property Investment Strategy
- Over £1million a year on Disabled Facilities Grants that helps our residents to remain in their own homes
- Regeneration with NHS partners, including a new £48million Mental Hospital/Diagnostic Unit (Beeching Road), two proposed NHA Health Centres (Wainwright Road & Little Common), a new Paediatric Unit (Egerton Park) and a Creative Arts Centre (Beeching Road)
- A housing company to deliver homes on Rother land facilitating the provision of affordable homes for Rother residents
We’re focussing on your priorities
We’re sticking to the priorities residents, businesses and partners have helped us set. This includes delivering 400 affordable rented homes, reducing the housing list by 2023, preventing homelessness, tackling inequalities and creating a strong local economy where businesses can thrive – all while driving towards becoming a net zero Council by 2030 or earlier.
We must also get the basics right such as emptying bins, keeping the streets clean, maintaining parks, dealing with planning applications and paying benefits.
What does Rother District Council do?
Rother District Council delivers a wide range of services, including:
- Waste and recycling collection
- Providing leisure facilities
- Providing support for homeless people
- Environmental health and protection
- Public toilets
- Street cleaning
- Car parks
- Dealing with littering and fly tipping
- Parks and open spaces
- Council tax and housing benefits
- Dealing with planning applications
Other services such as roadworks, social care, schools and libraries are delivered by East Sussex County Council.
One of the most difficult decisions we must make is about the level of council tax, which raises about £70,000 for every 1% it is increased.
Although we collect the council tax you pay, it is split between us, East Sussex County Council, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. Every year each of these organisations must decide how much to increase its share of the council tax you pay. Less than 9p in every £1 you pay in council tax goes towards Rother District Council’s services.
For 2023/24, we are proposing to increase our share of the council tax within the limits imposed by central government to invest in services to support residents through the cost-of-living crisis and deliver on the things you told us were your priorities.
This is substantially below inflation and other household bills and therefore represents a real-term cut in bills. Residents on the lowest incomes can receive help through our Council Tax Support Scheme.
Rother District Council’s element of the council tax is £193.38 for 2022/23 which equates to £3.72 a week or £16.12 a month. A 2.99% increase would add just over 11p a week (£5.78 a year) to a Band D property, meaning homes in Band D would pay less than 55p a day for Rother District Council services.
We want to keep any increase as low as possible when household budgets are so strained. But the less council tax goes up, the more savings we must find on top of those we’re already considering. We’ve got to balance this against the need to fund essential services that support the district’s residents, especially those who are struggling most.
Proposed savings and efficiencies
We’re hoping to make savings from our Financial Stability Programme for next year, but this still leaves us with a potential budget gap of about £2.2m to balance the budget.
If we are not able to identify efficiency savings, extra income, or budget reductions we will have no choice but to use more of the Council’s reserves, which are rapidly reducing.
Service reductions will be a last resort and we’ll protect our resident’s priorities by making efficiency savings and increasing our income wherever we can.
The current draft budget proposes increases in fees and charges where these are under the Council’s control.
Although our proposals help us stick to the priorities that residents, businesses, and our partners have helped us set, there remains a gap of £2.2m next year.
The Council’s capital programme shows what we intend to spend on purchasing new assets and improving existing ones over the next five years. Over the period of our Medium-Term Financial Plan we plan to invest £113m, funded by a mix of grants, capital receipts, reserves and borrowing.
Read the full report – Medium Term Financial Plan 2023/24 to 2027/28 (pages 1 to 9)
Appendix A – 2022/23 to 2026/27 Medium Term Financial Plan (page 10)
Appendix B – Revenue reserves (page 11)
Appendix C – Capital programme (pages 12 and 13)
How to Take Part in this Consultation
This consultation closed on Tuesday 31st January 2023