Waverley Borough Council last night approved its budget for the 2021/22 financial year. The budget sets out how the council will maintain frontline services this year, while it seeks further cost and efficiency savings and new revenue streams to offset the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued reduction in Government funding.
The borough’s portion of Council Tax is set to rise by 2.7%, equivalent to 10p per week on an average Band D property. This will help council sustain current service levels, maintain funding for community and voluntary organisations and freeze parking charges. However, further savings, new income streams, cancelled contributions to reserves and a reduction in contributions to the capital expenditure programme, will also be required to enable the council to balance the books.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic added £6.6m to the net service budget for 2020/21 through a combination of additional costs and loss of income from assets such as leisure centres and car parks. The council expects that COVID-19 grants and impact provision from the Government will total just £3.8m for the year.
Councillor Mark Merryweather, Waverley Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Finance, Assets and Commercial, said: “Through a great deal of hard work and under unprecedented pressure we’ve achieved a balanced and fair budget for 2021/22, with no reduction in service levels nor in the grants to our voluntary sector partners, who have done an amazing job over the last year in helping us support the most vulnerable members of our communities.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the council was facing a daunting financial challenge. Our costs are rising but the Government plans to cut our Business Rates and Grant income faster than we can replace it through a combination of efficiency savings, Council Tax increases, and building sustainable income from investments.
“This situation has been eclipsed by the pandemic. While Government ministers gave assurances that local authorities wouldn’t be out of pocket, this is clearly not the case. So we will need to identify further savings and new income rising to over £7.8m annually by 2024/25 in order to keep balancing the books.”
Note: The General Fund budget was approved at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 23 February.
Housing budgets and tenants’ rents will considered at the adjourned Council sitting on Thursday 25 February.