Have your say on council finances
Boston Borough Council: Proposed council tax increase 2.86 per cent
A proposal that Boston Borough Council's share of council tax should increase by an average of less than just 9p a week per household forms part of the overall budget plan now out for public comment.
On Wednesday the council's Cabinet recommended that the borough's portion of council tax for 2017/18 should rise by 2.86 per cent.
For a band D property the borough council share of the council tax bill is set to be £178.29. Around 89 per cent of households in the borough will pay less. The bulk of the total council tax collected is retained by Lincolnshire County Council and the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
Councillors heard that a balanced budget had been achieved, as required by law, and, despite continuing Government financial reductions and funding unfairness between rural and urban areas the budget was a good news story.
The council's response to the demand for it to save millions over the next four years has seen its Transformation Project deliver £588,000 worth of savings for 2017/18. Despite reduced funding the majority of council services continue to be delivered and no significant increases in fees and charges are proposed for 2017/18. The council's gross budgeted income for 2017/18 will be £34,867,000, down from £36,493,000 in the current year
The full budget report is available at http://bit.ly/2j7FbUR and details the council's income, including fees and charges, and spending plans for the next financial year, and the budget consultation survey is at http://bit.ly/2iFKg3m. The public consultation period ends at 9am on Friday, February 17. The budget will be approved by the full council on Monday, February 27.
The council has budgeted for no inflation up to 2021/22, which will require additional savings to be made if inflation continues. The budget gap for 2021/22 is currently projected to be £1.4 million. Revenue Support Grant funding from central Government reduces from £1,430,000 in the current financial year to £969,000 next year, shrinking away to nothing by 2020/21. The rural services grant also dwindles, from £85,000 this year to £68,000 next year, eventually disappearing in 2020/21.
A New Homes Bonus, paid to local authorities to encourage housing growth, is likely to disappear in 2020/21 when it is planned that councils will be able to keep all business rates that they collect. Currently half of all business rates are passed directly to central Government.
Rob Barlow, the council's deputy chief executive and strategic director, pointed out the unfairness of funding for rural areas - reducing by 31 per cent over four years compared with a 22 per cent reduction for urban areas; £31 per head of population in urban areas compared to £22 in rural areas. He said across the UK rural areas were facing the brunt of the cuts. Surrey and Hertfordshire would benefit by £350 million a year more than their needs assessment.
He said: "Those living in rural areas have to pay more council tax to ensure that services are delivered. And those in rural areas have less disposable income than those in urban areas."
"But we are on top of our budget despite being a disadvantaged area where cuts in Boston are as high as anywhere in the UK. It is a very difficult position with Government grant reduced by £800,000 - a massive amount in terms of our budget. This demonstrates the importance of carrying on with the transformation programme."
He said there was good news in the growth of business rates and emphasised the importance of increasing residential development to be able to claim a share of New Homes Bonus.
Council leader, Cllr Peter Bedford, said he would be meeting with MPs to highlight the differences between funding for rural and urban areas.
Chief executive Phil Drury said the external auditor appreciated the council's approach to its budget and the savings delivered by the Transformation Programme.
Cllr Bedford thanked every employee of the council for their hard work and support in difficult circumstances.