December 2019

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Published on 19 December 2019

Teignbridge to steady the ship amidst ongoing cash challenge

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Steadying the ship whilst continuing to steer a way through turbulent financial waters is the theme of the budget-setting work now nearing completion at Teignbridge District Council (TDC).

Those holding the purse strings at TDC have to plan for the year beginning in April 2020 with one eye on how healthy the council’s finances seem likely to be as far ahead as three more years – from 2020 to 2023.

This is because TDC’s Chief Finance Officer predicts a significant budget deficit by that time, unless the right action is taken now and is sustained in the immediate future.

These concerns are based on relentless reductions in central grant aid in recent times and continuing uncertainty about Whitehall’s plans for the coming years. As of now, clarity of the newly-elected Government’s provisional financial settlement (grant) for 2020-21 is still awaited.

Teignbridge keeps less than 10 pence from every £1 of Council Tax that it collects, with the rest going to parish councils, Devon County Council and to the Emergency Services.

Initial budget proposals to be presented to councillors for consideration over the next six weeks, before the final version is adopted next February, include a medium-term financial plan that takes current reserves into account. The proposals include the following headlines:

  • A proposed increase in Council Tax of £5 a year – or just under 3% and less than 10 pence a week – for the average Band D household
  • Staffing restructures and a recent senior management restructure that will create budget savings in future years
  • Adopting a more commercial approach to the services TDC provides, including a review of existing – and introduction of new – income streams aimed at generating more income
  • Funding a new post of Climate Change Officer and assigning extra resources to planning enforcement
  • Continuing to make technological improvements, streamlining processes and pursuing better online accessibility
  • Delivering capital projects that will increase net income
  • Continuing gains from the Strata IT partnership and significant returns from Newton Abbot’s newly upgraded Market Walk
  • Reviewing and reducing existing grants and contributions where appropriate.

Cllr Alan Connett, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services, including Finance, said these actions would enable the council to meet many of its own manifesto policies, including addressing climate change, better planning enforcement, delivering affordable homes within a wider housebuilding programme, improving local infrastructure and employment provision and boosting town centre investment.

He said: “No modern council can meet all its current and future challenges without some extra financial support. We’re proud of Teignbridge’s success in attracting Government funding to help us with improved housing provision and reinventing our high streets.

 “This emerging budget will allow us to fulfil our pledge to fund a Climate Change Officer and the associated budget for future years of our medium-term plan, together with additional resources for planning enforcement. It also ensures additional staffing and resources for refuse and recycling as demands on those services increase. We also expect to make no increase in the green waste subscription charge”.

He added that a modest increase in selected car parking fees and charges would allow Teignbridge to continue offering free Sunday parking, whilst freezing some charges or ensuring they are no higher than levels set in 2018/19.

Cllr Gordon Hook, TDC’s Leader, said: “This is the first budget-setting exercise we have undertaken since the Liberal Democrat administration took over in May 2019. We’re setting the bar high on delivering on many of the things that people voted for, within the constraints of ever-tightening public finances.

“We will work with TDC’s management team to find savings and efficiencies, as well as seeking innovative ways to generate more income or attract government funding to help us pay our way and stay solvent despite all the financial challenges councils are facing”.