Members debated the Cabinet budget proposals which reflected a balanced Council budget for 2023/24. The budget setting process began in the summer of 2022. Cabinet and officers had dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to get to the position as reflected in the proposals. The Cabinet Member for Finance thanked all who had been involved and contributed to this budget process.
It was stated during the meeting that despite what may seem like a lengthy and complicated process; this level of planning was of critical importance. It was how the Council would continue to deliver the services that matter to people, protect and support the most vulnerable residents. Cabinet recommended increasing the net spending on local services by £3.5m or 19.6% for the budget year. This was a really significant increase. The district council faced the same cost increases as everyone else on fuel, transport and pay, and this had to be funded. Inflation was at a 40 year high and the current economic climate made it difficult to predict the future.
In addition to the increased cost of delivering services, the wider difficult economic climate meant that demand for some key services, most notably temporary accommodation for homeless people, was rising. Providing a safety net for people who had nowhere to live was one of the most important services the Council provided. However it was demand-driven and costs were rising. Cabinet was proud to be presenting a number of proposals to invest in some of the council’s key services, which made a difference to local people. More spending was going to be dedicated on priorities such as improved CCTV, the recruitment of 5 coastal enforcement officers and more money for seaweed collection and coastal cleansing.
Despite the fact that inflation was running at around 10%, the Council’s core funding had only increased by 5.8% and the Council is only allowed to increase Council Tax by a maximum of 3%. Therefore Council would look to maximise local income, so that it could improve and provide quality services for local people. Cabinet was therefore proposing maximising key income streams, by charging for services which were only used by a limited proportion of residents. Cabinet was also planning to invest more in the council’s property portfolio, with the clear objective to increase income.
The Council had a relatively substantial capital programme to deliver over the next four years, through ongoing Levelling Up Fund projects for both Margate and Ramsgate and the Margate Town Deal. These funds provided the opportunity for significant investment in two of the district’s towns and the impacts on the budget were set out in the draft capital programmes for 2023-2027.
Finally the proposed increase in Council Tax, at £7.42 per Band D equivalent property, represents an increase of less than 15p a week for each household.
The following Members spoke under Council Procedure 20.1:
Councillor David Saunders proposed, Councillor Jill Bayford seconded and Cabinet agreed the following:
1. That the 2023/24 General Fund revenue budget be recommended to Council for approval;
2. That the 2023-27 General Fund capital programme be recommended to Council for approval.