Council Tax levels for Huntingdonshire District Council will remain one of the lowest in the country. Councillors considered the budget at a council meeting on Wednesday 27 February and supported an increase of just 2.6% for 2019/20. A Council Tax increase of 2.6% will mean that an average Band D property will pay £142.16 per year. However, most residents in Huntingdonshire will pay less than this as two-thirds of residents live in a property rated in a lower Council Tax band.
Due to the current economic climate, the council is faced with reduced government funding levels for 2019/20 compared to previous years, followed by further significant reductions in 2020/21. This means that further efficiencies will need to be found over the next 12 months in preparation for the challenge ahead.
Cllr Graham Bull, Executive Leader of the council said: "The council continues to work extremely hard to ensure that it runs its services to the maximum efficiency. Through sound financial management, we have drafted a budget which means that residents will see an increase in Council Tax of just 2.6% in 2019/20, which takes into account my group’s manifesto commitment that "Any Council Tax increase will be lower than both the most recent State Pension increases and the average increase in local earnings." In the last financial year average wage growth to April 2018 was 3.5% in Huntingdonshire, 4.8% in Cambridgeshire, and 2.7% nationally. Additionally, the minimum increase in State Pensions was 2.6%, due to the government’s Triple Lock Policy. A 2.6% increase equates to £3.60 per year for a Band D property, and for most residents it will be less than this.
"In due course the council will be issuing Council Tax bills to all its residents and an average Band D property will total £1,855.38, of which this council’s charge is only 7.7%.
"However, we do continue to face some tough challenges ahead with central government reducing our grant next year, with some grant disappearing altogether the year after. Our priority is to maintain the high quality essential services that our residents expect and we are well placed to do this, despite the reductions in funding. We continue to work hard to maximise every opportunity to save money without compromising quality, in order to ensure that we are fully prepared for reduced funding levels in future years."
Key measures proposed include:
investment in the front line staff who continue to tackle homelessness across the district
commitment to encourage the active participation of our residents in a wide range of high quality sports and leisure services. This means the continued investment in supporting healthy lifestyles across the district
additional support to ensure the effective delivery of front-line services, including significant investment in waste collection services and transforming a range of other council services
investment in regeneration projects in our market towns and further support for our local economy.
This will help to ensure that the council continues to support jobs and services, the district remains somewhere people choose to live and that our towns thrive and continue to attract both shoppers and visitors.
Executive Councillor for Strategic Resources, Jonathan Gray, whose portfolio includes financial forecasting, said: "The council has followed a robust budget setting process to ensure that every pound is accounted for. Between 2018/19 and 2019/20, there has only been a £126,000 net decrease (0.7%) in service expenditure; the council has been able to ensure that it continues to provide essential services to its residents in the most cost effective way possible. This budget aims to protect valued services at a time when we, like other councils, continue to face significant reductions in funding. Between this and the next financial year, government support in the form of New Homes Bonus will reduce by 25%, and the council will no longer receive Revenue Support Grant. However, this budget is part of our strategic plan to make Huntingdonshire District Council financially independent of government funding, and we have achieved this objective for 2019/20.
The budget also includes £1.4m of commercial income that has been generated since we approved the Commercial Investment Strategy Business Plan in December 2015; this would have equated to a Council Tax increase of in excess of 16%. In addition the council is currently undertaking a service transformation programme that will fundamentally review all that we do to focus on what our customers need, and how we deliver them in the most cost-effective manner. I believe this budget strikes the right balance between protecting the interests of the taxpayer and investing in key services that the people of Huntingdonshire rely upon us to provide."
Council Tax is collected by Huntingdonshire District Council on behalf of the county council, police, fire and the town and parish councils. The total amount collected for all services provided by Huntingdonshire District Council in 2019/20 will be £142.16 per year (based on a Band D property).