Council’s draft budget designed to weather economic storm

Coins and notes piled up

Canterbury City Council’s Cabinet will be asked for its permission to consult the public on its draft budget for 2023-2024 at its meeting next week.

This year’s budget proposals are designed to ensure the council continues to deliver the services that really matter to people like effective bin collections, robust enforcement, quick graffiti removal and helping the homeless.

This is in the face of significant challenges to its finances posed by rapidly rising costs, uncertainty over funding from the government and an expected increase in demand for council services given the turbulent economic times that lay ahead.

With prices measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) currently rising at the rate of 10% and the Bank of England predicting a peak of 13% in the coming months, the council is predicting an increase in direct costs like its energy bills and indirect costs passed on by its contractors of up to £1.8million.

The draft budget proposes to balance the books by:

  • building on the council’s track record of delivering savings by becoming more and more efficient – it found £1.9m of those in the current financial year
  • increasing Canterbury City Council’s element of residents’ council tax bills, which makes up 11% of the overall total, by just under 10p per week or £4.95 a year or 2.24% for an average Band D property – which is substantially below inflation and therefore represents a real-term cut in bills
  • increasing fees and charges by CPI (currently 10%) to cover the costs of the service that is being charged for
  • fishermen’s dues, scrap metal licences, taxi licences, boat and punt licences and allotment fees will only see an increase of half of CPI (currently 5%) – a real-terms cut in prices
  • using reserves, the money the council has saved to be used when times are tough, to pay for one-off costs in order to smooth out financial bumps in the road

Cllr Rachel Carnac, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Corporate Services which includes overseeing the council’s finances, said: “We’ve recognised for some time that as prices rise all around us and people face a raft of challenges over the coming months, that we need to help residents and continue to provide important services.

“At the same time, we’re in the same boat as people budgeting at home to make ends meet and businesses working hard to stay afloat.

“We need to take extra care because prices are rising for the goods and services the council has to buy so it can run the vital frontline services that everyone relies on and we know, as times get a little tougher, demand on our safety net services will increase.

“The draft budget shows we are doing all we can not to add to those pressures at a time when we are facing challenges of our own by only increasing our part of the Council Tax bill by less than 10p a week, using the council’s savings to smooth out the economic ups and downs, delivering services more efficiently by the day and doing all we can to hold down fees and charges.

“By being careful with other people’s money, we can deliver on our Corporate Plan priorities of delivering better waste collection services for all residents, using our enforcement powers to protect the district, to deliver a better social housing service for our tenants and to support the district’s economy to grow.”

The council’s draft capital budget, spending on physical assets like buildings, includes a commitment to pay for previously-agreed projects as well as replacing litter bins, improvements to some of the street lighting provided by the city council and the creation of a contingency fund should existing projects suffer from inflationary increases in costs.

If the Cabinet gives its permission to consult at its meeting at 7pm on Wednesday 9 November at the Guildhall, St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, people will be able to give their views from Friday 11 November to close of business on Monday 9 January.

If permission to consult is given by the Cabinet, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will consider the feedback from the consultation and debate the draft budget at its meeting on Thursday 26 January.

Cabinet would then also consider the feedback from the consultation, the views of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the latest financial information before recommending that Full Council approves the budget and sets Council Tax at its meeting on Wednesday 22 February.

Published: 2 November 2022

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