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Wyre Forest District Council’s Cabinet to consider “challenging but achievable” budget

Spending proposals in the wake of one of the most challenging years in history will be discussed by members of Wyre Forest District Council’s Cabinet next week.

Members will consider final proposals for the Medium Term Financial Strategy when they meet on Tuesday 9 February which will see a modest 2.28% increase in council tax to pay for district council services for the new financial year starting in April.

The Cabinet’s draft budget will ultimately be decided by full council at the annual budget-setting meeting on Wednesday 24 February.

The council had already been facing a £1.7 million shortfall by 2022-23 before Covid-19 struck, putting extra demands on services and resources and drastically reducing income. Although Government funding has offset some of the costs of the pandemic, it does not cover all costs and losses incurred and the funding gap is forecast to increase to £2.7m by the end of 2023-24.

Councillor Graham Ballinger, Leader of Wyre Forest District Council said: “Our budget proposals are challenging, but achievable.

“Our draft financial strategy will allow us to continue to recover from the unprecedented demands that 2020 placed on us, enable us to continue to provide the frontline services our residents need and prepare us for the demands we know we will face in coming years.”

“Last autumn’s consultation showed widespread support for the proposals by the majority of those completing the survey, including the majority of residents saying they would be prepared to pay more council tax for district council services.

“Our recommendation is for an increase of £5 at Band D or 2.28% for the district council’s portion of council tax, less than 10p extra a week. Wyre Forest District Council collects council tax on behalf of a range of public services – but only keeps 12p in every pound for its own services. We would like to go further if the Government’s final settlement for local government allows it.

“We are delighted with how the Wyre Forest Community Lottery is going and good causes are being supported weekly. We acknowledge that it will take time to expand and embed to reach the level of support we currently offer with the Community Leadership Fund. With this in mind we have taken on board the Labour Group’s suggestion to phase out the fund over the next two years.”

“I would like to say a big “thank you” to everyone who took part in our budget survey – your views have helped shape these proposals. And I would also like to thank our staff who continue to work flexibly and tirelessly to deliver services for our community.”

Main summary of the Cabinet’s budget proposals:

  • Increase council tax by the maximum allowed by Government. A £5 increase is currently included in the proposals and represents a 2.28% increase based on a Band D property. The majority of homes in Wyre Forest fall into Bands A-C and so the increase for these would be less than £5. The amount may change if the Government allows for a higher increase when its funding settlement is announced. No changes to the local council tax reduction scheme have been proposed in 2021-22: the minimum contribution working age households will have to pay remains 20% of the council tax bill.
  • Approve a further programme of phased savings for the strategic repositioning of the council of £0.8m in 2021-22, £1.2m in 2022-23, £1.5m in 2023-24.
  • Review and examine alternative delivery arrangements (e.g. running services in partnership with other local authorities or organisations)for services including waste collection, street scene and garage; development control; revenues, benefits and customer services; private sector housing; elections and committee support; grounds maintenance and tree work; nature reserves and ranger service; civil enforcement and community safety; housing and homelessness.
  • Start discussions with other neighbouring councils to examine the possibility of developing a joint Local Plan.
  • Conduct review of support services including finance, ICT and internal audit as well as HR and legal teams in light of services being delivered differently.
  • Complete a full management review by August 2022.
  • Launch a boundary commission review with a view to reducing the number of councillors, for implementation at local elections in May 2027.
  • Commission a full business case of Wyre Forest House with a view to explore either disposing of the building entirely or dividing it up so that the council would retain and occupy only part of it and dispose of the remainder.
  • Retain the Community Leadership Fund in 2021-22, reducing the amount allocated this year and next and phasing it out by 2023 as alternative funding streams (Wyre Forest Community Lottery) expand. 

Once the Cabinet has agreed its final recommendations next week, they will go to Full Council on Wednesday 24 February which will formally set the budget for 2021-22.