Teignbridge Tax and Member Allowances Frozen As Council Confirms Budget (published 24.02.12)
Residents in Teignbridge can look forward to another year of frozen council tax from their district council, with councillors also voting to reject any increases in their own pay.
Teignbridge District Council today (Friday 24 February) confirmed it would be freezing its portion of the bill, keeping the average annual Band D price for district council services at £150.17 for the third year running. Last year the council budget anticipated a 2.5% increase would be needed, but a one-off Government of £186k has been used to cancel this out. Despite other cuts in Government funding Teignbridge has achieved a zero increase budget without an impact on key frontline services.
Its Councillors also rejected recommendations made by an independent panel of businesspeople, members of the public and the voluntary sector which suggested reinstating Councillor pay to £5231 from a current level of £4969 per year, which was established last year when members voted through a 5% reduction. The council also decided to reject some suggested increases in Special Responsibility Allowances while accepting reductions in others. These allowances are extra amounts paid to councillors who hold positions with extra responsibility, such as the Leader, Deputy Leader, Committee Chairmen and more. When included alongside the removal of one post on the Council's ruling Executive, which occurred in last year when the council's Housing and Planning portfolios were merged under one Executive Member, the moves save £14,154 per year.
Cllr Stuart Barker, Teignbridge Executive Spokesperson for Assets and Resources said:
"We're proud to be delivering a budget which protects local pockets by freezing tax for another year while reducing the cost of councillors. We're working hard to squeeze value out of every last penny, and in doing so we are protecting the services the public tell us are most important, while also keeping an eye on the future and preparing ourselves for more economic growth, new jobs and much-needed homes.
The council is responsible for setting about 10% of the full Council Tax bill, with the rest shared between Devon County Council, the Police and the Fire and Rescue Service, all of which set their own levels of tax.
The Council has agreed not to use New Homes Bonus from the Government to subsidise council tax this year, but has chosen to use it to create a new Infrastructure Investment Fund. The Fund will help Teignbridge prepare for future growth by setting aside money for vital infrastructure like roads, employment sites and community facilities. It is hoped it will help boost the local economy in years to come, providing more jobs and kick-starting various economic development schemes. It aims to have approximately £1M gathered by the time it starts spending in April 2013, with proceeds from any developments it helps fund providing a rolling pot of money for homes and jobs.
Also confirmed was a budget allowance to continue a free Sunday parking scheme in local villages, towns and resorts. It was recently agreed that this would continue from April 2012 - April 2013, with the pilot scheme expanding to give principal town Newton Abbot free Sunday parking all year round. The scheme will also operate in rural areas throughout the year and in tourist resorts from 28 October 2012 to 31 March 2013.
Preserving front line services will remain high on Teignbridge's agenda, and every council department has been tested to find savings which can be made without reducing those services which the public value most. Following this 'budget challenge' additional savings and income of £0.5M, £0.6M and £0.8M have been identified over the next three years. Together with previously identified savings these will enable Teignbridge to manage its budget and protect priority services despite the continued reduction of Government funding.
'General Reserves' - or council balances - are recommended to help cover any unexpected expenditure, and these will remain unchanged at £1.3M in 2012/13, nearly 10% of the council's net budget.
Cllr Stuart Barker, Teignbridge Executive Spokesperson for Assets and Resources continued:
"There's no doubt that there are still plenty of challenges ahead, and there are several big national changes which we need to consider, including potential reductions in our grants and question marks over how much of our local business rates we'll be able to retain under new government proposals. However, this budget will put us in a strong position to face these challenges while still freezing council tax, providing a firm foundation for the future, offering a free Sunday parking scheme, and providing good quality services based on what people want."
The Council has also confirmed its commitment to the voluntary sector and bringing power to the people by maintaining various grants, including:
· £52k for the Citizens Advice Bureau
- £57k for the Teignbridge Council for Voluntary Services
- £69k for its local Councillors' Community Fund
- £55k for Rural Aid funding