Councillors say area's economy is 'buoyant' as they approve 3% council tax hike
The economy of South Holland is “buoyant”, the authority’s senior leaders said as they approved a 2.91 per cent council tax rise. But they warned they still need more money from central government.
South Holland District Councillors unanimously approved their budget for 2019/20, which will see Band D properties pay around £4.95 extra – a total of £174.78.
The change will see the council, which this year saw an increase of 629 properties across the district, collect an extra £264,000 in its own precept.
The vote also saw an increase in the Spalding special expenses to £23.67 and £23.49 for Band D properties.
Following the meeting, deputy leader Coun Nick Worth was keen to point out that the rise equated to “just 8p a week” – the lowest rise in Lincolnshire.
He told Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines: “It’s very important, in uncertain times, we have a prudent budget and sufficient reserves and that we are innovative in our funding.”
He said the economy in the county and the district had been “quite buoyant of late”.
“We’ve had a lot of requests for growth and expansion land as well as grants for enterprises,” he said.
He warned, however, that continuing to raise council tax was “unsustainable,” as the authority expects to see further cuts in grants from central government.
“Like all councils we’re very much interested to see we get a better settlement from the Fairer Funding Review.
“The government allowing us to put this up by just under £5 in my view is not sustainable. In the long-term the government need to give us more funding so we don’t have to do that.”
Mr Worth said the authority had not “cut any services here” and said it had managed to find different ways of maintaining its offering through income generation, investment in the Holbeach Food Enterprise Zone and sharing services and staff.
“It’s not so much about savings, it’s about being innovative in what we do.”
He added that uncertainties around Brexit could change the outlook on the economy, but said plans were in place for all eventualities through the authority’s work with the Lincolnshire Resilience Forum.
The authority has reached the end of its four-year Local Government Finance Settlement, which it has been using to fund some of its programme of financial management.
Money from the council’s revenue support grant, which is the main source of funding from government, will rise again to £271,000 this year after it received nothing last year for being part of the government Business Rates Pilot which saw it retain its rates.
The figure will return to zero from 2020 onwards.
The council has been looking to save £1.105million by 2020/21.
The authority will only retain 50 per cent of its business rates this year, but is hoping to get 75 per cent from 2020/21 onwards.
The authority also approved an increase in the extra tax premium it can charge on long-term empty properties over the next few years – this will bring in around £6,000 a year extra.