Budget proposes third year of council tax freeze

Council tax for Telford & Wrekin Council is set to be frozen for a third year in a row.

Budget proposes third year of council tax freeze

The Council’s budget proposals for 2015/16 published today, also put forward a number of one-off investments funded from an underspend thanks to the Council’s careful financial management. This good management and forward planning has allowed the Council to already make most of the savings it must find by 2016 due to cuts in government grant.

This allows the Council to propose investing in a range of new initiatives which will support its drive to help create jobs and investment in the borough’s economy and make the borough a better place to live and work.

Telford & Wrekin’s business supporting approach, which has helped the borough economy grow by four percentage points above the national rate over the last 3 years, will boost the Council’s budget by an extra £8 million next year. This dividend from the borough’s growth will be used to help support key services such as those for vulnerable adults and children from deeper cuts.

The new one-off initiatives the budget proposes include:
• A £1 million fund to boost high streets and the borough’s district centres, to help these to attract more visitors and business
• Free swimming for residents over 50 free at council pools until 2020 to help improve health. Residents under 16s already swim for free. This would mean that 54% of people in the borough could swim for free
• £1m to run the Community Pride Fund again in 2017/18. This would repeat the scheme successfully run in 2014, which offers £1m for community groups and businesses to bid for. The 2014 scheme was hugely oversubscribed with the value of applications for the £1 million fund totalling £2.5 million
• £650,000 to support regeneration in St Georges, including funding to help refurbish the Council-owned Gower St former youth centre
• An additional £250,000 to support events to help attract more visitors to the borough and promote it as a destination. This will build on the huge interest created by the new Southwater development  and Telford Town Park as a major regional leisure attraction as well as other established attractions such as the Ironbridge World Heritage site
• £270,000 to support the Council’s initiative with Just Credit Union to offer an ethical alternative to expensive pay day lenders and support for Telford Crisis Network’s foodbank.
• Almost £4 million to help roll out superfast broadband to parts of the borough where there is no broadband infrastructure and where none is planned. This 2 year scheme when complete will see 96% of borough homes have superfast broadband coverage 
• An additional £750,000 to boost the Council £13,800,000 Pride in Your Community programme and to continue the work of the Parish Environmental Action Teams until 2017. There are currently nine of these teams funded by Telford & Wrekin and parish and town councils to carry out extra work to make these areas even cleaner and greener.
• Investing a further £2,000,000 to help protect Children’s Safeguarding and Adult Social Care  to help protect these key services

At the same time the Council will be asking for people’s views on their priorities for the borough as part of its consultation which will be touring the borough during January and early February.

The Council is also highlighting simple ways that anyone in the borough can help the Council to save money through everyday issues such as recycling more, using the Council’s leisure centres and Oakengates Theatre more, to reporting more issues online and helping older people to live independently in their own homes for longer.

Cllr Bill McClements, cabinet member for finance and enterprise said: “Our sound approach to the unprecedented scale of cuts in government grant has seen the Council manage things very carefully, while committing to freeze council tax, already one of the lowest in the region, for the third year in a row in 2016/17.

“This approach and our success in already achieving savings totalling £70 million a year have allowed us to bring forward a number of investments that support a broad range of our priorities.

“At a time when most councils are talking only a language of cuts, our positive approach to supporting investment, jobs and growth is yielding £8m a year extra for the Council - money that is directly supporting vital services for vulnerable children and adults.

“Our proposals offer not only excellent vale but show how we are working hard to make life better across the borough and show how Telford and Wrekin is a place that is on the up, that people are choosing to invest in, to live in and visit.”