Canterbury City Council has begun public consultation on its draft budget for 2017/18.
The council must find £2.2 million of savings next year in order to balance its books. Over the period 2012 to 2020, the council will have made savings totalling more than £12.5 million.
The grant the council receives from government has fallen year on year and by 2019 it will have been phased out completely. The council will, in effect, become an entirely self-funding organisation.
Against the backdrop of such a difficult financial climate, the council is proposing to increase its portion of the council tax in 2017/18 by £4.95 for a band D property. This would mean city council services would cost 55 pence a day.
Increases in charges for some council services are proposed, in line with the continuing ‘user pays’ approach. This involves charging more for services that are only used by a small proportion of residents so that the cost doesn’t fall mainly on the general taxpayer.
All services and contracts will be reviewed to check they are being provided as cost effectively as possible, and more services will be moved online to keep costs down. The council will also invest in and manage its property to make sure it is generating the maximum amount of income.
There are proposals to increase the price of some car park charges in Herne Bay and Whitstable, as well as rises in the price of some parking permits across the district.
In addition, there are proposals to reduce opening hours at the Beaney art museum in Canterbury, including a closure on Mondays, which is in line with many other museums. Access to Canterbury Visitor Information Centre and the county council’s library, which are both located in the Beaney, would be maintained.
Council Leader Cllr Simon Cook said: “Without doubt, the ability to balance our budget is becoming harder and harder each year. Since 2012, we have responded to the challenging financial situation by reviewing how we provide services, and this work will continue, but residents should be under no illusion that this approach can last forever
“After 2019, it is highly likely that operational savings will no longer be enough. Services will be under threat and some very difficult decisions will need to be taken.
“All the proposals and the figures showing how we will manage the budget over the next few years are on our website and I would encourage people to look at the plans and tell us what they think.”
The budget consultation can be viewed online and comments must be submitted by Tuesday 3 January 2017. Views can be sent in writing to Strategy, Canterbury City Council, Military Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1YW. The council will set the budget and council tax at a meeting on Tuesday 21 February 2017.