This consultation closed on 18 December 2018.
This year we have three phases to set our new budget.
The first phase will be looking at our Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS). The strategy sets out the areas of budgetary pressure and estimates the size of the budget deficit over the next five years. You can read the report and minutes for Cabinet meeting 5 November 2018 and Overview and Scrutiny meeting 15 October 2018 for the MTFS.
The second phase of the budget process would be the draft budget report to Cabinet in December 2018, which would bring forward a list of proposals over the next five years to ensure a balanced revenue budget.
The third phase would commence in January 2019, once the Government settlement had been announced. The proposed savings brought forward in December would need to be agreed and the Capital Strategy and Revised Capital Programme would be prepared and incorporated into the MTFS for approval by Cabinet and full Council in February 2019.
Phase One: Medium Term Financial Strategy
See also Frequently Asked Questions at the bottom of this article.
In summary, there has been movement of £1.1 million in our forecasted budget for 2019/2020 from where we were when we last reviewed the medium term financial strategy in February. There are some key factors. You can read more information in the report and minutes for Cabinet meeting 5 November 2018 and Overview and Scrutiny meeting 15 October 2018 for the MTFS.
Firstly, the current waste and recycling contract is finishing and we have gone back out to tender to find a new company. We know that the new contract is going to cost us more money, no matter what we do with the contract terms and conditions. Waste and recycling is a statutory service and must be provided.
Secondly, we now employ a few more staff but this is mainly to bring in new skills and work on our invest to save projects. In the medium to long term, these staff will help us save more money and bring in more income.
Thirdly, we are getting less money from different sources. The government is giving us less money. We are getting less money from our collection fund.
We have immediately looked at what we can do to find the £1.1 million. We have found over £600,000 in savings and income already. This amount includes putting up our part of the Council Tax by 2.99% in 2019/2020. Putting up the Council Tax by 2.99% will bring in £200,000. The impact on Band D properties is the RDC portion of their annual Council Tax will go up from £174.32 to £179.55 a year or by £5.32. Properties in Band A to C will increase by a lower amount and properties in Band E and higher will increase by a higher amount. (Note: there are other organisations that get your Council Tax and they will make their own increases.)
The £600,000 savings come from doing more projects to change our systems and processes and becoming more efficient, reducing our costs, raising more income and our various invest to save projects showing some return.
What is left is finding £500,000 if we put up Council Tax or £700,000 if we don’t put up Council Tax.
What we propose to do for 2019/20 is to take the £500,000 or £700,000 from the Council’s reserves. You can think of reserves as our contingency money; they are our savings accounts. However, we get some income from our savings. Our reserves make about half a million pounds a year as long as we keep them at their current level. Every time we take money out of our reserves the amount of overall reserves goes down and we don’t get an income from it. The money is gone, spent. Then we have less income and it starts to make a bigger hole in our budget.
However, using reserves in 2019/20 will buy us some time to plan over the next 6 to 9 months about what we are going to do in 2020/21. It will almost certainly mean cutting Council services. We might come up with some new ideas to save money or make more money. Maybe this consultation will bring in some new ideas.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have had about 70 responses so far and here are some questions and answers that came up.
Can you put up Council Tax more than 2.99%?
- No, not really. There is a cap by central Government stopping local authorities from putting up Council Tax. The cap is 3%. If Rother District Council wants to put up Council Tax by more than 3% we have to hold a referendum with all voters on the electoral register in Rother. The cost would have to paid by the Council and would take up most of any rise. It just isn’t worth it, financially.
Who invests £266k on the Colonnade and makes a trading loss of £56k?
There is a difference between a capital investment that is still there in the building (as in putting in the new kitchens) and a trading loss. The capital investment will yield a return from the new tenant and will be recovered. In the long term, investing in the building made it more attractive to the market and gets us better rents.
Externally funded “Syrian”? Good cost saving opportunity, can this scheme be extended?
Rother helps settle some Syrian refugees, it is a requirement by the government, and the person we have recruited to support the refugees and help them settle into the area is funded by a grant. This is what is meant by Syrian worker. We aren’t looking to extend the scheme.
Is there any way we can put up council tax more for larger properties (of which we are one)?
No, the banding of Council Tax is set by central government and not councils, we don’t have that authority: https://www.gov.uk/council-tax
Would traffic wardens bring in money for Rother?
Not if you mean Rother District Council. Currently, parking enforcement is carried out by Sussex Police and when it is de-criminalised would be an East Sussex County Council service. The county council has the highways service (roads, pavements) and will provide parking enforcement. Once the set-up costs are paid off and if there is any profit then the County Council will get that income. Rother District Council will not get any income. It is possible the county council might use any income on highways provision in the Rother area, so indirectly the money might come into Rother.
I would like to know what is the current deficit in rent arrears from council tenants?
We don’t have any council tenants, so none. Rother District Council stopped having council housing about 20 years ago.
What council tax arrears are currently owed and what percentage of any outstanding amounts have been recouped?
Over 98% of Council Tax is paid on time during the year and we actively work to recover outstanding amounts where it is possible to do so. http://www.rother.gov.uk/article/13299/Monday-3-September-2018 This link is for the revenue and capital monitoring reports on collection fund performance.
I can’t really see why there is an automatic [assumption?] the refuse will cost more, in this type of business there is always opportunities to combine services,
We know this already because we have been out to tender and in discussions in the market place and on 3 December Cabinet made recommendations to full Council for the appointment of a contractor. Full Council meets 17 December 2018.
Waste and recycling services are already provided in a partnership with other East Sussex districts and boroughs. Most of those organisations will be under the next contract.
On bringing in more staff it makes a big difference if these are in house staff or consultants?
In house staff.