South Hams District Council yesterday approved their budget for the next financial year, and confirmed that there will be no cuts to front line services for the next 12 months.
As Leader of South Hams District Council, Cllr John Tucker explains “The recent programme of changes that the Council have put in place to change how we work, has enabled us to reduce costs and by March we will have made £3 million of savings from our transformation programme. A radical programme to change how we work, be more efficient and keep front line services.
“If we had not embarked on this transformation we would not be able to deliver the front line services that our customers need. The future for Government funding is clear, by 2018 the Government grant that we used to receive from Central Government will stop and we will once again be facing a funding gap.
“Right now we are in a pretty decent position compared with some other Councils in the Country who have debts and have not changed how they work to address the funding shortfall, but long term we will have to focus much more on how we can generate income.”
South Hams District Council also confirmed today that they will be increasing the Council Tax precept by the maximum amount of £5 for a band D property for the next financial year.
Of the money that South Hams collects in Council tax only 9% goes to services provided South Hams, the rest goes to Devon County Council, the local Town or Parish Council, the Fire and Police services.
Cllr Tucker went on to say. “Central Government have also now confirmed the amount of grant money that they will be giving us this year and we are pleased to say that it is slightly higher then expected. Our lobbying has clearly paid off, the Council will gain an extra £305K next year.
“While this is good news, we are very aware that the drive for councils to become more self-sufficient is still a top priority. As I have said we now know that our main funding grant will disappear completely and we are exploring options for how we can generate our own income and we are proposing to use these funds along with money generated through the New Homes Bonus, as a pot of money which can be invested to earn the Council money.”.
One of these options is for the Council to transfer the services they provide into a commercial company that can bid for contracts elsewhere and make money. South Hams District Council are currently exploring this option which could see 90% of council staff transfered into a company owned by the Local Authority. This would be a joint venture between South Hams District and West Devon Borough Council who already operate a shared service, where staff work jointly for both Councils.
The next step is for members to discuss the issue in detail and decide if the Council should progress this idea further.