North Somerset Council has set its most open, fair, and green budget to date for the year ahead, agreed at a meeting last week (Tuesday 18 February). The rainbow administration's Budget will see a council tax rise of 1.99% in April in addition to a 2% levy the government has allowed local authorities to raise specifically to help fund the increasing costs and demand for adult social care. This means the average Band D council tax bill for council services in the coming year will be £1,433.50.
The budget is designed to support the delivery of the council’s objectives set out in its new corporate plan. The corporate plan, which was also agreed by councillors at tonight’s meeting, will guide the council’s activities over the next four years.
The budget reflects the council’s commitment to reducing the inequalities that exist in North Somerset. It includes changes to the council tax support scheme for residents on the lowest incomes to reduce the minimum contribution payable by 3%.
The council is also keen to recruit more local foster carers to look after the area’s vulnerable children and the budget includes an improved benefits and support package to retain existing carers and encourage new ones.
The year ahead will also see increased investment in early intervention and prevention services for children, changes to parking charges, investment in cultural development, a programme to bring empty retail units in Weston’s town centre back into use and changes to the garden waste service.
The budget will see finances dedicated to improving community engagement and consultation in council activities and resources allocated to tackling the climate emergency.
Councillor Ashley Cartman, who holds the finance portfolio, told Wednesday’s executive meeting: "Government has effectively set councils up to fail. It's a chaotic and unpredictable environment.
"The message that austerity is over is simply not true. Our ability to raise income falls far short of our costs.
"Three things will make this council different from its predecessor."
Residents took the opportunity to comment on the budget and the corporate plan during a consultation process in December and January with around three-quarters of respondents agreeing that the council’s aims set out in the corporate plan were right for North Somerset.
A recording of the meeting is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IrpN3Iydfs