Mendip District Council approved its budget for the next financial year at Full Council last night (Monday 21st February 2022). The budget will be the last ahead of the creation of a new unitary authority in April 2023. It will allow the Council to continue to invest locally in Mendip, improve services and tackle key local issues while also managing the significant loss of funding from the Government.
The proposed budget for 2022/23 allocates resources to priorities identified in the Council’s Corporate Strategy, as well as providing a range of services including waste collections, fly-tipping enforcement, and leisure and tourism services.
The District Council’s budget is funded through the Council Tax, a share of Business Rates and income from services such car parks, government grants, and its commercial property investments.
Core central government funding reductions during the past decade, are in the region of 60%. Inflationary pressures also have impact (allowances made for inflation in the 2022-23 budget total around £400k). And there are significant increased service costs.
But despite these ongoing financial challenges, Mendip’s budget is balanced and the Council has fully-funded spending plans for the year, prioritising and investing in services and supporting spending on key projects such as social and affordable housing delivery, multi-user paths, a cleaner, greener Mendip, creating energy-efficient homes and encouraging economic development.
Leader of Mendip District Council, Cllr Ros Wyke, said: “This is a prudent, innovative budget, and a fully-funded and balanced one. A lot of hard work has gone into preparing this. We have delivered savings and efficiencies which will ensure investment in services. Our corporate priorities are possible and they are affordable, in what will be the final 12 months of this District Council.”
All five councils are being asked to contribute to the implementation costs of Local Government Reorganisation in Somerset. For Mendip, this will mean a contribution commitment of around £1.2m, as agreed by Cabinet in December 2021. It will be met from reserves. Somerset County Council are covering the costs in the current year, so the Mendip contribution will be required in 2022-23.
To maintain vital statutory services the Council needs to raise the Mendip element of the Council Tax by three percent this year. It means an average Band D property will pay £171.61 in 2022/23 to Mendip District Council (plus a Somerset Rivers Authority contribution of £1.84). The increase is around £5 a year extra compared to last year. Mendip District Council’s share of the overall Council Tax Bill is 9% of the total, with the remainder going to fund Somerset County Council, Police and Fire services, City, Town and Parish council services, and Somerset Rivers Authority.
Since 2019, the Council has doubled its Council Tax Hardship Fund to £60,000 to help those most in need. That’s on top of other existing Council Tax support for 2022/23. It’s an increase of £10,000 on the £50,000 granted last year. At Full Council, Deputy Leader of Mendip District Council and Portfolio Holder for Enterprise and Finance, Cllr Barry O’Leary, pledged that – should there be a demonstrated need, and funds available – the Council would seek to increase the fund by an additional £10,000 each quarter with the aim of the Hardship Fund reaching £100,000 by the end of the financial year.
Cllr O’Leary said: “This budget will help Mendip weather the storm of local government funding cuts and enable us to continue to run good quality local services. It will support the district’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19, it will deliver action on climate change through innovative projects, it will protect our most vulnerable residents and it will continue our work to deliver homes-to-rent for people who need them at a price that can be affordable. The budget will help our high streets, the important work of the Glastonbury Town Deal, and Levelling-Up bids. And it will boost our creative arts sector to the tune of £100,000.”
Cllr O’Leary concluded: “What this budget offers is progress not perfection. It’s the last budget this Council can set, as master of its own destiny. Mendip has held true to our word and sought to do things differently, innovatively and working with others. I am proud to have presented this budget as I believe it’s one that will support local jobs, local communities and our local economy.”
The budget paper was approved, with one amendment. All finance reports featured at Mendip District Council’s Full Council can be viewed on MDC’s website.