The council’s budget
After increasing the South Gloucestershire element of the council tax in 2016/17 for the first time following a freeze for five years from 2011/12 to 2015/16, the council increased its share of the council tax for 2017/18 by 4.99% (including an additional ring fenced 3% increase for adult social care). The 2017/18 Budget also includes updated details of the Council Savings Programme (CSP). During the last six years, to the end of 2016/17, the council will have reduced annual spending by more than £63m through a range of efficiency measures. We anticipate, however, that we need to continue to reduce our spending and have already provisionally identified £14m in additional savings that will need to be made by 2019/20. More work will also be needed to identify where further savings of nearly £15 million can be made over the same period to meet the remaining shortfall between expected income and current spending to balance the books in the longer term.
The first pie chart below indicates where the council will obtain its funding for 2017/18 – about 22% will come from council tax payers (of which 1% is ring fenced for Adult Social Care), 7% from business rate payers, 54% from government and 16% from sales, rents, and fees and charges. The second pie chart shows the services on which the council spends the money – 35% is spent on schools, about 27% on services for young people other than at school, and for the elderly and those with disabilities and public health, with another 18% being spent on transport, environment and community services. The remaining expenditure amounts to about 4% for capital financing and 16% on a range of other services.
The council has consulted residents on its budget proposals. Over 1,300 responded. About half thought the council offered good value for money, most thought the council was right to focus on savings by being more efficient in its use of assets such as land and buildings, changing working practices to make better use of technology and more efficient ways of working, and working in partnership and sharing services with other councils and public sector agencies. All the council’s core activities were supported by the majority of respondents. The highest levels of support were for maintaining safe and clean communities, and safeguarding vulnerable children and adults. The council has recognised these views in setting its budget.
In addition to setting its budget and council tax for 2017/18, the council has also looked at the next ten years’ plans. The government has previously announced its intention to change the way all councils are to be financed by 2019/20 when the main government grant will cease and councils will be able to retain all the business rates they collect rather than just half as is the case currently. Alongside some other devolution areas, the councils in the West of England combined authority area (which includes this council) will pilot 100% rates retention, starting in 2017/18, and the council has included an estimate of a potential one-off gain in its forecasts for 2018/19 and 2019/20.
The council expects that further investment will be needed in services for the over 65s and for vulnerable young people over the next few years.
The council has used the new power to issue an additional ring fenced 3% council tax to contribute to meeting the demographic and service pressures in adult social care in 2017/18. This is in addition to the forecast 1.99% increase in council tax which was indicated would be needed for 2017/18 in last year’s budget. This is in line with government expectation for authorities like South Gloucestershire Council.
In order to achieve a balanced budget in the medium term, the council will need to achieve an additional £9m p.a. savings in 2019/20 and a further £6m p.a. in 2020/21, plus the full delivery of its previously identified current savings programme of a further £14m p.a. by 2019/20. These decisions will be reviewed each year and adjustments made as circumstances change.