Council tax increase approved as part of Wiltshire budget plans

RESIDENTS are looking at a rise of 4.99% in Wiltshire Council’s share of council tax from April.

The authority’s budget for 2024/25 was formally approved at a meeting of Full Council yesterday (February 20).

Proposals voted through are forecasting a small underspend of around £634,000 for the 2023/24 financial year as the council looks to combat rising inflation and spiralling social care costs.

For 2024/25, an additional £36m has been added into the council’s service budgets.

Overall, the council’s budget for 2024/25 stands at around £490m, with more than half of that spent on adult and children’s social care services.

The most significant spending in 2024/25 will be on:
• Adult services – £179.4m
• Families and children – £70.8m
• Environment – £49.6m
• Highways and transport – £43m
• Education and skills – £38.9m

Cllr Richard Clewer (Con, Downton & Ebble Valley), council leader, said: “In contrast to some other local authorities that are unfortunately facing some difficult challenges, our finances are strong.

“This is down to two main factors – firstly we take a long-term approach, identifying where we know demand will grow and investing to mitigate that increase in need or demand.

“Secondly, we focus on prevention, and invest in those areas that we know will benefit residents and save money in the long-term. Prevention underpins everything we do – to use an old adage – ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.

“Our budget ensures we will significantly be investing in key services including highways maintenance, flood prevention, decarbonisation, our leisure services, enforcement and ensuring our town centres are supported to be vibrant places to visit.

“We’re not immune to some of the challenges other councils are facing, but to ensure we are in the strongest position to continue to tackle the fluctuating rate of inflation and to deal with higher costs we have made the necessary decision to increase the council element of council tax by 4.99%.

“However, the bottom line is that because of our robust, preventative and prudent financial management we can invest more money into the services we provide for our residents, businesses and communities.”

Despite the challenging financial climate nationally, the council will still be investing in key services and programmes, he said.

An extra £10m has been allocated over the next two years to spend on filling potholes and a road resurfacing programme.

The investment will also fund more small, local repairs to the highways and verge repairs on rural roads.

The budget also puts in an additional £1m investment into extra gully cleaning work and reactive pothole filling.
A further £1m has again been allocated for the Wiltshire Towns Programme to help create and support town centres.

Work around enforcement is also being strengthened, with a total of £650,000 being invested, with £250,000 of that allocated to increase the capacity of the planning enforcement team to address and resolve complex cases more effectively.

The capital programme outlines the authority’s commitment to invest over the next seven years, with a budget of around £285m.

Some of the capital spend in 2024/25 will be on:
• Building and refurbishing council houses – £45m
• Structural maintenance and bridges – £21m
• A350 Chippenham and Melksham bypass ongoing work – £18m
• Trowbridge and Salisbury Future High Streets – £11m
• Highways investment plan – £7m
• Property carbon reduction programme inc. solar canopies – £5m
• Investment in leisure centres – £3m
• Trowbridge Leisure Centre – £800,000 (with more than £20m allocated in subsequent financial years)

The council said it will also Invest an additional £10m in creating additional SEND school places including creating resource bases at mainstream schools to provide young people with access to enhanced support.

To tackle rising costs, plans to make £19.7m in savings have been approved, including £4.9m of new savings proposals.

A 2.99% increase in council tax is for the council’s element of council tax, plus a 2% levy to be spent solely on adult social care, representing an increase of £1.65 per week for those with a Band D property, at an annual charge of £1,805.73.

A number of other measures will be introduced by the council during 2024/25, including an increase in some fees and charges for some services such as leisure, some planning services and the garden waste collection cost going to £70 per year (around £1.34 a week).

The council said it will also look to continue to work as efficiently as an organisation as possible by removing some vacant posts and reducing agency budgets. It will also look to lease vacant space across its estate where possible, making the absolute best use of its buildings.

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