Highlights from Cabinet – Monday 6th November 2023

We have detailed some key highlights from the Cabinet meeting, held on Monday 6th November 2023.

A tough time for finance

Cabinet was presented with a report on the latest medium term financial plan.

Members discussed the extremely tough financial outlook where a combination of high inflation, rising costs, and years of central Government funding reductions means that the council is facing a budget shortfall next year of £3.8m.

The authority has a plan to cover most of the shortfall with savings, increases in fees and charges, and sharing services with other councils, but has said some discretionary services may have to stop.

Cllr Doug Oliver

Cllr Doug Oliver, Leader of the Council, said: “There’s no doubt we face a tough road ahead. However, the Council has a strong plan to address the situation that I’m confident will make us more financially resilient in the future.”

A number of recommendations were agreed to take forward in the budget process, including increasing council tax to the Government’s referendum limit, replenishing reserves and also seeking the views of residents and businesses via a budget consultation.

Changes proposed to Council Tax Support Scheme

Members debated recommendations from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme regarding proposed changes to the scheme to come into effect in April 2024.

The Scheme was set up to help pension and working-age applicants who meet the criteria for support with council tax payments.

Cllr Ashan Jeeawon

Cllr Ash Jeeawon, Lead Cllr for Finance, said: “The key concern with the current scheme is the requirement for low-income households to pay a minimum of 20 per cent. This could significantly increase pressure on households, already suffering in the ongoing cost of living crisis.”

Cabinet agreed to consult with residents and key stakeholders on a proposal to increase the potential level of support to working-age applicants to 100 per cent and remove the minimum payment requirement of £5 per week.

Update on Blackfriars Housing Scheme

Proposed changes to the Blackfriars housing development in Battle were reported to Cabinet.

Cabinet members heard that due to a worsening financial climate, including high inflation, increased borrowing rates, and a drop in the value of private homes, Rother DC Housing Company will now apply to the Council’s Planning Committee to take out the section 106 obligation of the proposed development.

If approved, it would remove the stipulation for an exact number of affordable homes delivered as part of the project and give the scheme a better chance of proceeding in the current financial climate.

Cllr Ruari McCourt

Cllr Ruairi McCourt, lead Cllr for housing at the District Council, said: “Whilst the news is disappointing, it’s not surprising. The current housing market is in an extremely difficult place, and this, coupled with the significant challenges of the site itself has led to the current situation.

“It will now be for Rother’s Planning Committee to decide, but in the meantime, the council and housing company will continue to work collaboratively with the aim of delivering 200 new homes in Battle. We will also continue to seek an affordable housing element to the project as the scheme progresses and market conditions stabilise.”

Cabinet was also given an update on the road and infrastructure part of the scheme and heard that this is progressing well, with a significant element of the road now built. It is anticipated the road and drainage work will be completed by March next year.

Members were updated on the overall financial position – including the costs of delivering the scheme and agreed to the new budget figure of £21m.

Full Cabinet Agenda and Minutes

To see the full agenda for Cabinet, please visit our Cabinet – Monday 6th November webpage.

Published: 17th November 2023

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