The Council’s Cabinet heard on Tuesday that at present, its budget would lead to a rise of just over 12p a week for residents – an increase of 3.9%, which is less than the current retail price index of 4.4%. The Cabinet agreed a strategy to review its costs and will consider the position again at its meeting on 6 February.
The Council has been hit by increasing costs of services, especially concessionary travel and energy costs. It has also fared poorly in the government’s grant settlement, which gave it a cash increase of just 1.9%.
The strategy agreed by the Cabinet includes reducing Council costs by further improvements in efficiency, reductions in lower priority services and reviewing its fees and charges. The Cabinet will consider a further detailed report on the budget on 6 February before making recommendations to Council on the budget and Council Tax level.
Councillor Peter Moyle, Leader of the Council, said: “This is a difficult, challenging budget for the Council this year. Our costs are increasing, particularly as a result of initiatives from central government, and the grant settlement at 1.9% over last year is very disappointing. This is putting a squeeze on our residents which means that we will need to look to reduce our spending so we can limit any increase.” Councillor Moyle added, “Importantly, I am determined to continue our work to maintain critical services and address the high priority areas of safety and town centre redevelopment. We shall continue our work in these areas.”
Director of Resources Peter Gardner, commented “Council Tax makes up just 11% of the income to finance our spending, which makes it very sensitive to small changes in our expenditure.”
He added, “The proposed grant settlement still does not take into account the higher cost of providing services in this area of the South East despite representations over a number of years. This means that Rushmoor receives around £1 million less than it should do.”